Telecommunication services have been cut off in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian telecoms company Paltel has said, as Israel intensifies its assault on the besieged territory.
“We regret to announce the complete cessation of the communications and Internet services with the Gaza strip, as the main paths that were previously reconnected were disconnected again,” Paltel said in a statement on Monday.
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Cybersecurity watchdog NetBlocks confirmed that the “near-total internet blackout” would be “experienced as a total loss of communications by most residents”.
⚠️ Confirmed: Live metrics show that the #Gaza Strip is now in the midst of a near-total internet blackout; the incident impacts the telecoms backbone via Israel, mirroring previous recorded outages, and will be experienced as a total loss of communications by most residents 📉 pic.twitter.com/EujmEvVb3j
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) December 4, 2023
The announcement came amid intense air strikes across Gaza as Israel expanded its assault on the besieged territory that began on October 7 after Hamas fighters from Gaza carried out an attack on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.
At least 15,899 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive, according to Palestinian authorities, and more than 75 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said at least 50 people were killed in an Israeli air strike that hit two schools sheltering displaced people in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City, in northern Gaza.
WAFA reported that ambulances were struggling to reach the sites of the strikes to evacuate the victims due to the intensity of artillery shelling.
Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the report.
Israel’s military on Monday called for more evacuations in southern Gaza as it widened its offensive.
Israel ordered Palestinians to leave parts of southern Gaza’s main city, Khan Younis, but residents said that areas which they had been told to go to were also coming under fire.
Israeli troops and tanks also pressed the ground campaign in the south of the enclave after having largely gained control of the now-devastated north. “We are beginning to expand the ground manoeuvre to other parts of the Strip, with one goal – to topple the Hamas terrorist group,” Brigadier-General Hisham Ibrahim told Army Radio.
Israel’s military posted a map on social media platform X with around a quarter of Khan Younis marked off as territory that must be evacuated at once. The arrows pointed south and west towards the Mediterranean coast and towards Rafah, a major town near the Egyptian border.
Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, said the area around the facility was under “relentless, uninterrupted bombing and artillery shelling”.
“We haven’t heard such bombardment in the vicinity of the hospital before,” he said.
“The south of the Gaza Strip has also been under relentless air strikes. The fact is that there is no safe place inside the Gaza Strip,” Abu Azzoum noted.
The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Thomas White, said there were no safe places for people seeking to flee the bombardment.
“People are pleading for advice on where to find safety. We have nothing to tell them,” he said on X.
Bombing at one site in Rafah overnight had torn a crater the size of a basketball court out of the earth, Reuters reported.
Israel’s closest ally, the United States, has called on it to do more to safeguard civilians in the southern part of Gaza than in last month’s campaign in the north. Washington on Monday said it was asking Israel to let more fuel into the Gaza Strip.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Israel to “avoid further action that would exacerbate the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza and to spare civilians from more suffering”, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the need for unimpeded and sustained humanitarian aid flow to meet the needs of the people throughout the Strip,” Dujarric said. “For people ordered to evacuate, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on.”