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HomeLatest Breaking newsGaza connectivity being restored following Netanyahu's warning of 'long, difficult' war

Gaza connectivity being restored following Netanyahu’s warning of ‘long, difficult’ war


Women walk past a destroyed building in the aftermath of the Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 28, 2023. — AFP
Women walk past a destroyed building in the aftermath of the Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 28, 2023. — AFP 

After more than 24 hours of a near-complete telecommunication cut-off by Israel, internet connectivity in the Gaza Strip is being restored, according to the global network monitor Netblocks on Sunday, amid the Israeli prime minister’s threats of the war being “long and difficult”.

The restoration of telecommunication in Gaza follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning on Saturday that Israel’s war on Hamas fighters will be “long and difficult”.

“Real-time network data show that internet connectivity is being restored in the #Gaza Strip,” the company wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Soon, an AFP employee in Gaza City said shortly after 4am (0200 GMT) that he could use the internet and phone network and had contacted people by phone.

Netanyahu warned Hamas of the difficult war ahead as the Palestinian resistance demanded the release of all Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages it seized three weeks ago.

The United Nations (UN) warned thousands more civilians could die in Gaza as Israel said ground forces were still operating inside the territory more than 24 hours after entering it on Friday.

And the head of the International Red Cross appealed for an end to the “intolerable” suffering of Gaza’s civilians.

Israel unleashed a massive bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing over 1,400 people and seizing more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

More than 8,000 Palestinians have since been martyred in Israeli retaliatory strikes on Gaza, half of them children, the health ministry in the Palestinian territory said Saturday.

The Hamas authorities reported that a “large number” of people had been killed overnight in Israeli air strikes on two refugee camps in northern Gaza.

Israel’s Home Front Command earlier warned residents in the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon of incoming missile and rocket attacks.

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency medical service said it had dispatched first responders to the scenes of “reported rocket strikes”. No casualties were reported.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk warned of “the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza”, saying “thousands more civilians” could die.

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, appealed Saturday for all sides to de-escalate the conflict.

“It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza amid the massive bombardments, and with a military siege in place there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible,” she said. “This is a catastrophic failing that the world must not tolerate.”

‘New phase in the war’

The intense strikes against Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, provided cover for Israeli ground forces to step up operations.

A picture taken from Israel´s southern city of Sderot shows rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel on October 28, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. ÿ AFP
 A picture taken from Israel´s southern city of Sderot shows rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel on October 28, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. ÿ AFP 

“Since early Friday evening, combined combat forces of armour, combat engineers and infantry have been operating on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said late Saturday.

Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops along the Gaza border raising expectations of a full-blown invasion, with its soldiers also making limited ground incursions on Wednesday and Thursday.

“This is the second stage of the war whose goals are clear: destroying the military and leadership capabilities of Hamas, and bringing the hostages back home,” Netanyahu told journalists.

“The war in the (Gaza) Strip will be long and difficult and we are prepared for it,” he said, describing an “existential test” for Israel.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We’ve entered a new phase in the war”.

He added: “We attacked above the ground and below the ground,” alluding to the network of tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza.

Israeli fighter jets dropped leaflets over Gaza City warning residents that the area was now a “battlefield”, that shelters in northern Gaza were not safe, and that they should “evacuate immediately” to the south.

The army delivered similar warnings earlier in its campaign, but many who fled south have returned home after failing to find refuge from Israeli bombing.

‘Price to pay’

Hamas’s armed wing said it was ready to release the hostages it abducted if Israel freed all the Palestinian prisoners it was holding.

“The price to pay for the large number of enemy hostages in our hands is to empty the (Israeli) prisons of all Palestinian prisoners,” Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida said.

“If the enemy wants to close this file of detainees in one go, we are ready for it. If it wants to do it step by step, we are ready for that too,” he added.

Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said the group stood ready to make an “immediate” exchange.

Israel’s military said late Saturday that it has now counted 230 hostages taken to Gaza, with officials saying dozens of them are foreigners or dual nationals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz hold a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz hold a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP 

This week, the Brigades said “almost 50” of the hostages had been killed in Israeli strikes.

Facing increasing anger over the fate of the captives as Israel steps up its war on Hamas, Netanyahu met representatives of hostage relatives on Saturday.

Ifat Kalderon, whose cousin Ofer Kalderon is believed to be held in Gaza along with members of his family, told AFP she supported the idea of a prisoner release in exchange for the hostages.

“Take them, we don’t need them here. I want my family and all the hostages to come back home,” she said.

Netanyahu made no commitment to any exchange deal but assured hostage families Israel would “exhaust every option to bring them home”.

Communications blackout

Overnight to Saturday, hundreds of buildings and houses were completely destroyed and thousands damaged, Gaza officials said.

Hamas retaliated with fresh rocket fire, which wounded three people in central Israel.

Billionaire Elon Musk said his Starlink satellite service would support internet access for “internationally recognised aid organisations in Gaza” a day after communications and phone networks were cut across Gaza.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said this was affecting emergency calls and critical ambulance sorties. Human Rights Watch warned it could provide “cover for mass atrocities”.

Starlink is a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide internet to remote locations, or areas where regular comms infrastructure has been disabled.

UN’s ‘non-binding’ verdict on Gaza

Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, demanded a “pause of hostilities” to allow aid into Gaza after the UN General Assembly called for an “immediate humanitarian truce”.

The non-binding resolution on Friday received overwhelming support, but Israel and the US criticised it for failing to mention Hamas.

Addressing several hundred thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Istanbul on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West”.

His comments prompted Israel to recall all of its diplomats from Turkey.

Israel’s military campaign has displaced more than 1.4 million people inside Gaza, according to the UN, more than half of its 2.4 million inhabitants.

Supplies of food, water and power to the crowded territory have been almost completely cut off.

A Palestinian man stirs one of several large cooking pots simmering on wooden fires due to the lack of cooking gas, for displaced families, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 28, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP
A Palestinian man stirs one of several large cooking pots simmering on wooden fires due to the lack of cooking gas, for displaced families, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 28, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP

A first convoy of aid was allowed on October 21, but only 84 trucks have crossed in total, according to the UN, which says that on average, 500 trucks entered Gaza daily before the conflict.

Between the bombardments and the fuel shortages, 12 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been forced to close and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it has had to “significantly reduce its operations”.

Violence has also risen sharply in the occupied West Bank since the October 7 attacks, with 109 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or settlers, including 33 children, according to the UN.



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