No contact with Gaza strip since Nov 16, says UN update

This is the fourth such blackout in communications in Gaza since Oct 7, impacting landlines, internet services and humanitarian aid to those impacted by airstrikes

Palestinians inspect the ruins of Watan Tower destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza city (Photo: Getty Images)
Palestinians inspect the ruins of Watan Tower destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza city (Photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

There has been no contact with the Gaza strip since 4 pm on 16 November until 10 pm on 17 November, stated the latest update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Gaza Strip has been largely cut off, following the shutdown of landlines, cellular, and internet services due to the depletion of fuel used to run generators by telecommunications providers. This is the fourth communications blackout since 7 October, and the first caused by lack of fuel, stated the 42nd flash update by OCHA on the crisis in the region.

The telecommunications shutdown has brought the already challenging delivery of humanitarian assistance to an almost complete halt, including life-saving assistance to people injured or trapped under the rubble as a result of airstrikes and clashes.

On 17 November, for the third consecutive day, Israeli troops, accompanied by tanks, operated within the Shifa hospital compound in Gaza city. According to hospital administrators, since 11 November, 40 patients, including four premature babies, have died in the hospital due to the lack of electricity.

The Israeli authorities, on 17 November, informed United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that as of 18 November they would allow the entry into Gaza of a daily amount of 60,000 litres of fuel from Egypt. This is about 37 per cent of the fuel needed by the agency to support humanitarian operations, including food distribution, and operation of generators at hospitals and water and sanitation facilities, stated the UN.

OCHA stated that no humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on November 17 for the third consecutive day. This is due to UNRWA’s inability to receive and distribute additional loads, because of its lack of fuel, compounded by the shutdown of telecommunications. However, one truck carrying a small amount of fuel is said to have gone in, but OCHA did not have any information on the status of that truck.

On 16 November, the Egyptian border opened for the evacuation of 262 Egyptian nationals and nine wounded people. Three UN staff were allowed into Gaza, to support the humanitarian operations. Between 2 and 15 November, 138 injured people were taken for medical care in Egypt.

OCHA update reiterated that hospitals and medical personnel were specifically protected under international humanitarian law (IHL) and all parties to the conflict must ensure their protection. Hospitals must not be used to shield military objectives from attack.

On 16 November, UNRWA stated that 70 per cent of the people in the south of Gaza have no access to clean water due to the absence of fuel needed for desalination and other water services. Additionally, raw sewage started flowing in the streets in some areas.

The main source of potable water in the south is two pipelines coming from Israel that supply together about 1,100 cubic metres per hour. A number of still-operational private wells and desalination facilities are expected to shut down by 18 November due to the lack of fuel.

In the past 24 hours, there have reportedly been intense ground clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in and around Gaza city as well as in several areas in the North Gaza governorate, in Khan Younis and east of Rafah (in the south). Intense strikes by Israeli forces also continued in the south. Israeli ground troops have maintained the effective severance of the north from the south along Wadi Gaza, except for the “corridor” to the south.

According to the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate in Gaza, 45 Palestinian journalists have been killed since 7 October. According to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, more than 198 Palestinian medics have been killed. According to the Palestinian Civil Defense, at least 12 of its members have been killed. And according to UNRWA, 103 of their staff have been killed since 7 October.

The Israeli military, on 17 November, continued calling on residents in the north to evacuate to the south through a “corridor” along the main traffic artery, Salah Ad Deen Road, between 7 am and 4 pm. However, due to the telecommunication blackout, OCHA was unable to monitor the movement of people and estimate their number.

As of 11 November, there were about 807,000 Palestinians living in the north, constituting about two-thirds of the pre-war population, according to an estimate by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Reports by humanitarian partners suggest that a large percentage of those remaining in the north, possibly the majority, have been displaced. Many of them have lost their homes and are moving within the area, seeking food, water, accommodation and relative safety, stated the update.

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