The United Nations had to halt the delivery of food and other essential items to Gaza on Friday, raising concerns about the possibility of widespread starvation. The collapse of Internet and telephone services in the besieged enclave, due to a lack of fuel, has entered its second day, severely isolating Gaza’s 2.3 million people from each other and the outside world. This situation is paralyzing aid coordination, which was already challenging due to the fuel shortage.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, was unable to bring in its aid convoy on Friday. The spokesperson, Juliette Touma, stated that without immediate prospects of Israel allowing more fuel, the duration of the aid suspension remained uncertain. An extended blackout could lead to a prolonged halt in humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces have signaled the potential expansion of their offensive toward Gaza’s south while continuing operations in the north. Troops searched the territory’s largest hospital for traces of a Hamas command center, alleging it was located under the building. However, Hamas and Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital staff deny the existence of such a command center.
The war, now in its sixth week, was triggered by Hamas’ attack in southern Israel on October 7. More than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, with the majority being women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Dehydration and malnutrition are increasing in Gaza, as the region has received only 10 percent of its required daily food supplies since the war began.
The breakdown of the communications network exacerbates the situation, as it is essential for electricity generators that power communication systems, water treatment plants, and sewage pumps. Israel has prohibited fuel shipments into Gaza since the war’s start, only allowing a limited shipment to UNRWA earlier this week for food trucks after the agency’s fuel reservoir ran dry.
Conditions at Shifa Hospital are dire, with no electricity for ventilators and severe diarrhea among infants due to a lack of clean water. Israeli troops, who entered the hospital on Wednesday, provided some food and water, but it was insufficient for the hospital’s needs. The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reported that troops searched underground levels of the hospital on Thursday and detained equipment technicians.
Israel faces pressure to substantiate its claim that Hamas set up its main command center in and under the hospital. The US has stated it has intelligence supporting these claims. Israel has mainly presented photos and videos of weapons caches it says were found in the hospital, along with allegations that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.
In response to Hamas’ surprise attack, Israel has concentrated its assault on northern Gaza but indicated a potential expansion in the south. The military aims to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities. Israeli forces dropped leaflets instructing Palestinians near the southern town of Khan Younis to evacuate.
As the war continues, tensions rise elsewhere, with Israeli troops clashing with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. At least three Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid, with conflicting reports on the number of casualties. The militant Islamic Jihad group claimed the dead as members, including one identified as a local commander. The heads of 18 UN agencies and international charities rejected a proposed safe zone, calling for a cease-fire and unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid and fuel.