Gaza has lost telecom contact again, while Israel’s military announces it has surrounded Gaza City

Fire and smoke rises from buildings Sunday following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City. (AP Photo/Abed Khaled)

Palestinians on Sunday flee the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din street in Bureij. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Gaza came under the third total communications outage since the start of the war, while Israel’s military announced late Sunday that it had encircled Gaza City and divided the besieged coastal strip into two.

“Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters, calling it a “significant stage” in Israel’s war against the Hamas militant group ruling the enclave. Israeli media reported that troops were expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours. Strong explosions were seen in northern Gaza after nightfall.


The “collapse in connectivity” across Gaza, reported by internet access advocacy group and confirmed by Palestinian telecom company Paltel, made it even more complicated to convey details of the new stage of the military offensive.

“We have lost communication with the vast majority of the UNRWA team members,” U.N. Palestinian refugee agency spokesperson Juliette Touma told The Associated Press. The first Gaza outage lasted 36 hours and the second one for a few hours.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck two refugee camps, killing at least 53 people and wounding dozens in central Gaza, the zone where Israel’s military had urged Palestinian civilians to seek refuge, health officials said. Israel said it would press on with its offensive to crush Hamas, despite U.S. appeals for even brief pauses to get aid to desperate civilians.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in nearly a month of war in Gaza, more than 4,000 of them children and minors. That toll likely will rise as Israeli troops advance into dense, urban neighborhoods.

Airstrikes hit the Maghazi refugee camp, killing at least 40 people and wounding 34 others, the Health Ministry said. An AP reporter at a nearby hospital saw eight dead children, including a baby, brought in after the strike. A surviving child was led down the corridor, her clothes caked in dust.

Arafat Abu Mashaia, who lives in the camp, said the Israeli airstrike flattened several multi-story homes where people forced out of other parts of Gaza were sheltering.

“It was a true massacre,” he said. “All here are peaceful people. I challenge anyone who says there were resistance (fighters) here.”

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Another airstrike hit a house near a school at the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. Staff at Al-Aqsa Hospital told the AP at least 13 people were killed. The camp was struck on Thursday as well.

Despite appeals and overseas demonstrations, Israel has continued its bombardment across Gaza, saying it is targeting Hamas and accusing it of using civilians as human shields. Critics say Israel’s strikes are often disproportionate, considering the large number of civilians killed.

On the ground, Israeli forces in Gaza have reported finding stashes of weapons, at times including explosives, suicide drones and missiles.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, a day after meeting Arab foreign ministers in Jordan.

Abbas, who has had no authority in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007, said the Palestinian Authority would only assume control of Gaza as part of a “comprehensive political solution” establishing an independent state that includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 war.

His remarks seemed to further narrow the already slim options for who would govern Gaza if Israel succeeds in toppling Hamas. The last peace talks with Israel broke down more than a decade ago, and Israel’s government is dominated by opponents of Palestinian statehood.

Blinken later visited Iraq to meet with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani about the need to prevent the conflict from spreading, and about efforts to increase the flow of aid to Gaza, which Blinken called “grossly insufficient” at about 100 truckloads a day.

A Jordanian military cargo plane air-dropped medical aid to a field hospital in northern Gaza, King Abdullah II said on social media shortly after midnight Monday. A trickle of aid has entered Gaza via the land border with Egypt, but it appeared to be the first aid delivered by Jordan, a key U.S. ally that has a peace deal with Israel.

Earlier in his tour, Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday reiterated that “there will be no cease-fire without the return of our abductees.”

Arab leaders have called for an immediate cease-fire. But Blinken said that “would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7,” when it launched a wide-ranging attack from Gaza into southern Israel, triggering the war.

Swaths of residential neighborhoods in northern Gaza have been leveled in airstrikes. The U.N. office for humanitarian affairs says more than half the remaining residents, estimated at around 300,000, are sheltering in U.N.-run facilities.

Israeli planes again dropped leaflets urging people to head south during a four-hour window Sunday. Crowds walked down Gaza’s main north-south highway carrying baggage or pets and pushing wheelchairs. Others led donkey carts.

One man said they walked 500 meters (yards) with their hands raised while passing Israeli troops.

Another described seeing bodies along the road. “The children saw tanks for the first time. Oh world, have mercy on us,” said one Palestinian man who declined to give his name.

Israel’s military said a one-way corridor would continue for residents to flee to southern Gaza.

The U.N. said about 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70% of the population, have fled their homes.

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