We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

People inspect the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City Alamy Stock Photo

Israel cuts off internet and phone lines in Gaza and launches intense bombardment

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,700 Gazans have been killed since 7 October.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Nov 2023

PHONE AND INTERNET communication has been cut off in the Gaza Strip.

Israel cut internet and phone lines in the besieged territory today for the third time since the Israel-Hamas war began on 7 October, telecoms firm Paltel said.

“We regret to announce the complete shutdown of communications and internet services in Gaza after the Israeli side disconnected the servers,” Paltel said in a statement.

Shortly after the blackout, the Israeli army launched an intense bombardment on Gaza City and other nearby zones in the north of the enclave.

The explosions were so powerful they could be heard in Rafah in the far south of the Palestinian territory, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.

Gaza’s Hamas government also said the Israeli army was carrying out “intense bombings” this evening around several hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip.

“For more than an hour, intense bombings have been taking place around hospitals,” said Salama Marouf, the head of the Hamas government’s media office.

The Israeli military confirmed the bombardment and said it had split Gaza in two.

Israeli forces “have encircled Gaza City… Now there exists a south Gaza and a north Gaza,” said army spokesman Daniel Hagari.

Ground battles raged throughout the day today in northern Gaza, which is still home to hundreds of thousands of people.

Israeli troops tightening their encirclement of Gaza City were seen engaged in house-to-house battles as tanks and armoured bulldozers churned through the sand in footage released by the army.

In a video taken from Israel’s Sderot along the border with the Gaza Strip, an Israeli flag was seen raised on top of a destroyed building.

Since Israel sent ground forces into the north of the narrow Palestinian territory late last month, “over 2,500 terror targets have been struck” by “ground, air and naval forces”, the army said today.

Since Israel’s siege and bombardment began, more than 9,700 people have been killed, according the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Many more are thought to be trapped under the rumble left by Israeli airstrikes. 

Leaflets dropped by the army again urged Gaza City residents to evacuate south between 10am (8am Irish time) and 2pm (12pm Irish time), a day after a US official said at least 350,000 civilians remained in and around the city that is now an urban war zone.

In the latest strikes in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said, Israeli bombing of Al-Maghazi refugee camp last night killed 45 people, with an eyewitness reporting children dead and homes smashed.

“An Israeli air strike targeted my neighbours’ house in Al-Maghazi camp, my house next door partially collapsed,” said Mohammed Alaloul, 37, a journalist working for the Turkish Anadolu Agency.

Alaloul told AFP his 13-year-old son, Ahmed, and his four-year-old son, Qais, were killed in the bombing, along with his brother. His wife, mother and two other children were injured.

A military spokesperson said they were looking into whether their forces had been operating in the area at the time of the bombing.

Elsewhere, AFP has called on Israel for “an in-depth and transparent investigation” into the exact involvement of its army after a strike severely damaged its office in Gaza City, which has been shelled for weeks.

Irish troops

In the north of Israel, the army and the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah movement again traded fire across the border yesterday, with each claiming to have hit the other’s positions.

The skirmishes came after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that the war could draw in other forces in a regional conflict.

There is a contingent of Irish soldiers stationed on the Israel-Lebanon border as part of a UN peacekeeping mission, UNIFIL, and the Irish Defence Forces today confirmed to The Journal that all are safe and accounted for. 

“On several occasions since commencement of hostilities UNIFIL, and specifically IRISHPOLBATT have been subject to GROUNDHOG (taking shelter in protected positions),” a spokesperson said.

“The Irish troops of the 122nd Infantry Battalion in UNIFIL continue to monitor the situation and to conduct planned framework operations. All Irish and Maltese soldiers are accounted for and are safe.”

u-s-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-meets-with-palestinian-president-mahmoud-abbas-amid-the-ongoing-conflict-between-israel-and-the-palestinian-islamist-group-hamas-at-the-muqata-in-ramallah-in-th US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

US diplomatic tour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced a rising tide of anger in meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan yesterday, where he reaffirmed US support for “humanitarian pauses” to ensure desperate civilians get help, a day after Netanyahu gave the idea short shrift.

Blinken made a surprise visit to the occupied West Bank today, meeting with Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas.

Blinken told Abbas that Palestinians in Gaza “must not be forcibly displaced”, a State Department spokesman said.

Abbas decried Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip.

“I have no words to describe the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law,” Abbas told Blinken in Ramallah, in remarks carried by official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

“The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza and made clear that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced,” said a summary of the meeting released by the US State Department.

The unannounced trip came amid sharply rising violence in the West Bank since the outbreak of the war in Gaza.

Blinken and Abbas “discussed efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank, including the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible”, said the State Department.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States remains committed to advancing equal measures of dignity and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” it said.

More than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and attacks by Israeli settlers since the start of the war, according to the Palestinian Authority.

Three were killed today in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Blinken’s meeting with Abbas, whose secular Fatah party is Hamas’s rival, came at a time Washington has heaped political and military support on its ally Israel.

Last week Blinken told a Senate hearing the Palestinian Authority should retake control of Gaza, even though it currently exercises only limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long sought to sideline it.

Cyprus corridor

Blinken has since left the West Bank for Cyprus, the nearest EU member state to Israel and the Gaza Strip, which has said it is working towards establishing a maritime corridor for aid to Gaza. 

Blinken and President Christodoulides discussed the situation in the Middle East, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Their conversation at Larnaca airport included “a dedicated, one-way maritime corridor of sustained flow of humanitarian aid from Cyprus to civilians in Gaza”, Letymbiotis said.

Earlier today, Christodoulides said France, the European Commission and Israel backed Nicosia’s initiative to open a humanitarian sea route.

“On that basis, we are talking with the United Nations because the UN will receive the aid and not Hamas so that it reaches the population,” Christodoulides told reporters.

After raising the plan with European Union leaders last month, Christodoulides said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Emmanuel Macron about the issue.

“The Republic of Cyprus is trying, within its capabilities, to ensure that humanitarian aid to Gaza is uninterrupted,” said Christodoulides.

He said Cyprus was taking the initiative as the nearest EU member state to the region – the island is about 370 kilometres from Gaza – and because of its good relations with Arab states and Israel.

“It is important that both the French president and the president of the (European) Commission have endorsed our initiative. We are working on the details so that it can be implemented,” Christodoulides said.

He said “we must be ready at any moment, and as soon as conditions allow it, to proceed with implementing this proposal”.

Asked whether there were discussions with Israel on a ceasefire to provide humanitarian aid, he said: “Israel, the prime minister himself, is in favour of our initiative.”

“We are discussing the details… because the maritime area around Gaza does not allow for ships to approach.”

Last week, Cyprus Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos visited Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Christodoulides has also involved Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the talks.

Cyprus already serves as a transit hub for foreign nationals evacuated from Israel because of the war.

Later today, Blinken is expected in Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held Netanyahu personally responsible for Gaza’s growing civilian death toll.

Turkey declared yesterday that it was recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu due to Israel’s unwillingness to implement a ceasefire. 

Washington has rebuffed calls for a ceasefire, instead backing Israel’s goal of crushing Hamas militants in Gaza.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whose country has been acting as the sole conduit for foreigners to escape the Gaza Strip and for aid to get in, called for an “immediate and comprehensive ceasefire”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week today, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said that “we certainly could be watching war crimes unfolding”. 

“The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction, prosecutors have made that clear, in the Middle East. I believe there should be full accountability for what is happening here,” Martin said. 

“I’ve always been of the view that the bombing of dense urban areas … you cannot do it without killing civilians and killing children and I don’t believe there has been any proportionality attached to this. It’s disproportionate by any measure and it’s not necessary,” he said. 

The Tánaiste said the the Hamas attack on 7 October was “savage, brutal, barbaric” and that Israel has a right to take on Hamas. 

“But it’s the pursuit and the manner and the methodology I think people are questioning. You cannot take out a civilian population along with that, you cannot make calculations that if I get one Hamas commander it’s ok to take out 100 civilians,” he said. 

“I think intelligence-led approaches to terrorism have always been more effective.” 

Netanyahu under pressure

The call for a ceasefire was echoed by thousands of protesters in Washington in solidarity with Palestinians, one of multiple rallies held from Indonesia to Iran as well as in European cities.

Thousands also demonstrated in Israel yesterday as pressure mounts on Netanyahu over his government’s lack of preparedness for the 7 October attacks and its handling of the hostage crisis.

In Tel Aviv, several thousand took to the streets, including relatives and friends of some of the hostages, chanting “bring them home now”.

In Jerusalem, hundreds came together outside Netanyahu’s residence with more explicit calls for his resignation.

A pro-Palestine demonstration was held on the streets Dublin yesterday, making it the fourth weekend in a row to see such a rally. 

Posts on social media showed crowds of people marching the streets calling for a ceasefire and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans. 

Hamas said last night the evacuation of dual nationals and foreigners from Gaza was being suspended until Israel lets some wounded Palestinians reach Rafah so they can cross the border for hospital treatment in Egypt.

A senior White House official said Hamas had tried to use a US-brokered deal opening the Egyptian border crossing to get its cadres out.

“That was just unacceptable to Egypt, to us, to Israel,” the official said.

Concluding a two-day visit to Egypt, Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Programme, today appealed for more aid for Gaza, stressing that trucks allowed in so far are no match for needs on the ground.

“Right now, parents in Gaza do not know whether they can feed their children today and whether they will even survive to see tomorrow. The suffering just metres away is unfathomable standing on this side of the border,” she said after visiting the Rafah border crossing.

“Today, I’m making an urgent plea for the millions of people whose lives are being torn apart by this crisis.”

Security Council division

Israel’s UN ambassador has said that he wore a yellow star at a recent Security Council hearing to “shock” the body into condemning Hamas, after his action drew rebukes even from home.

Gilad Erdan’s choice a week ago to wear the badge, which has come to symbolize the oppression of Jews since its imposition in Nazi-occupied Europe, was swiftly criticized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, which urged him to wear the Israeli flag instead.

“This act disgraces the victims of the Holocaust as well as the state of Israel,” the memorial’s chair Dani Dayan said in a Hebrew-language post on X, formerly Twitter.

Speaking to CNN today, Erdan defended the move and denounced the Security Council again for its “silence” over the unprecedented attacks by Hamas Palestinian militants against Israel on 7 October.

“I just want to emphasize that my goal was to first of all shock the Security Council,” Erdan said of his controversial choice to wear the star.

The deeply divided 15-member body has yet to adopt a single resolution on the attack or on Israel’s decision to launch a retaliatory war against Hamas.

“I wanted to shock them. I wanted to remind them of their silence and I wanted to convey a message that we – not like in the past – we are not weak as we were during the Holocaust,” Erdan said.

For weeks the Security Council has been riven by divisions over the war and its impact, rejecting four draft resolutions about the conflict.

Some texts were blocked by the United States, a close Israel ally, because they did not mention Israel’s right to defend itself.

Another presented by the Americans was stymied by Russia and China in particular because it did not clearly call for a ceasefire.

In light of the deadlock, the UN General Assembly last Friday adopted by a large majority a nonbinding resolution requesting an “immediate humanitarian truce,” but without mentioning Hamas.

Nevertheless, Erdan warned that Israel would not back down.

“We will continue to fight without any peace ceasefires until we eradicate Hamas,” he said.

© AFP 2023 with reporting by Hayley Halpin and David MacRedmond