GAZA STRIP: A day after a raid on the besieged territory’s main hospital, Israeli troops on Thursday claimed to be in control of a key port, as a near complete communications blackout remained in effect.
The Israeli army said its troops had taken “operational control” of the port at Gaza City in the territory’s north, with at least a dozen tanks and groups of soldiers massed on the coast near Gaza City.
Earlier this week, they had announced the seizure of the parliament building, government offices and police headquarters.
The health ministry says the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11,500, including thousands of children, while Israel claims to have lost 51 of its troops in the fighting inside Gaza so far.
More evacuations ordered from towns near Khan Yunis; Biden warns Tel Aviv against ‘occupying Gaza’
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has issued a fresh warning to civilians to leave four towns in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
Leaflets dropped overnight from aircraft told civilians to leave the towns of Bani Shuhaila, Khuzaa, Abassan and Qarara, on the eastern edge of Khan Yunis, the main southern city. The towns, collectively home to more than 100,000 people in peacetime, are now sheltering tens of thousands more who fled other areas.
Israel has already ordered the evacuation of the entire northern half of Gaza before sending in its ground forces at the end of October. Long processions of people clutching just a few possessions have made their way south each day under the eyes of Israeli soldiers during six-hour “tactical pauses” to allow residents to leave.
The situation on the second day of Israel’s operation in Al Shifa hospital was also impossible to confirm, with communications cut off since Wednesday afternoon.
The Palestinian telecom company Paltel confirmed the blackout.
“All telecom services in Gaza Strip have gone out of service as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in,” it said on X, formerly Twitter.
“Gaza is again in a total communication blackout and… it is because there is no fuel,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told a press conference in Geneva.
“Today, there is no longer any fuel available in the Gaza Strip — or at least not accessible for UNRWA.
“If the issue of the fuel is not addressed, we run the risk to have to suspend the entire humanitarian operation,” he said.
On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said a “very strong force” may need to remain in Gaza to prevent the re-emergence of Hamas, suggesting that Tel Aviv was planning to occupy the Palestinian enclave. However, this proposal was met with sharp opposition from the its staunchest ally, Washington, which warned that occupying Gaza would be “a big mistake”.
“If we pull back, then who will take over? We can’t leave a vacuum. We have to think about what will be the mechanism; there are many ideas that are thrown in the air,” Herzog said in an interview with the Financial Times, published on Thursday.
But US President Joe Biden said he had told Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu that he did not believe the war would end until a two-state solution was reached.
“I made it clear to Israel that I think it’s a big mistake to for them to occupy Gaza,” he said.
Biden also told reporters he was doing everything in his power to free prisoners held by Hamas, but that did not mean sending in the US military.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2023