Gaza crisis: Internet blackout, hunger compound Palestinians' misery as war enters 11th week

Fifty-six per cent of displaced households are experiencing 'severe levels of hunger'

By AP

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A Palestinian boy cries for his relatives who were killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on December 15. — Photo: AP
A Palestinian boy cries for his relatives who were killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on December 15. — Photo: AP

Published: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 1:19 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 1:25 PM

A prolonged communications blackout that severed telephone and Internet connections compounded the misery in the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday. A UN agency said hunger levels had also spiralled in recent days.

Internet and telephone lines went down on Thursday evening and were still inaccessible on Saturday morning, according to advocacy group NetBlocks.org. This has hampered aid deliveries and rescue efforts as Israel's war against Hamas stretched into the 11th week.

“The internet blackout is ongoing, and based on our records it is the longest such incident” in the over-two-month war, said Alp Toker, the group’s director. The UN's humanitarian affairs department said communications with Gaza were “severely disrupted” due to damage to telecommunications lines in the south.

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The offensive, triggered by the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 85 per cent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes. Displaced people have squeezed into shelters mainly in the south in a spiralling humanitarian crisis.

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

The US, Israel’s closest ally, has expressed unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but the White House continues to offer wholehearted support with weapons shipments and diplomatic backing.

Severe levels of hunger

With only a trickle of aid able to enter and distribution disrupted by fighting, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) reported a surge from 38 to 56 per cent in the number of displaced households experiencing severe levels of hunger in the space of under two weeks. In the north, where aid has been unable to enter, “households … are expected to face a catastrophic situation,” the WFP said.

The offensive has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, the health ministry in Gaza said on Thursday before the communications blackout.

Thousands more are missing and feared dead beneath the rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Its latest count did not specify how many were women and minors, but they have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead in previous tallies.

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