Internet and telephone services collapsed across the Gaza Strip on Thursday for lack of fuel, the main Palestinian provider said, bringing a potentially long-term communications blackout even as Israel signaled its offensive against Hamas could next target the south of the territory, where most of the population has taken refuge.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops for a second day searched Shifa Hospital in the north for traces of Hamas. They displayed guns they say were hidden in one building, but have yet to release any evidence of a central Hamas command center that Israel has said is concealed beneath the complex. Hamas and staff at the hospital, Gaza's largest, deny the allegations.
The military said it found the body of one of the hostages abducted by Hamas, 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, in a building adjacent to Shifa, where it said it also found assault rifles and RPGs. It did not give the cause of her death.
The communications breakdown largely cuts off Gaza's 2.3 million people from each other and the outside world, worsening the severe humanitarian crisis in southern Gaza, even as Israeli airstrikes continue there. International pressure is growing on Israel to allow pauses in fighting to let in aid, with food, water and electricity increasingly scarce and U.N. officials saying relief efforts are endangered by fuel shortages.
Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is crowded into southern Gaza, including hundreds of thousands who heeded Israel’s calls to evacuate to the north to get out of the way of its ground offensive. If the assault moves into the south, it is not clear where they would go, as Egypt refuses to allow a mass transfer onto its soil.
The war, now in its sixth week, was triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel in which the militants killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured some 240 men, women and children. Weiss, the woman whose body was found Thursday, is the third hostage confirmed dead, while four others have been freed and one rescued.
Israel responded to the attack with a weekslong air campaign and a ground invasion of northern Gaza, vowing to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities.
More than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The official count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
The war has inflamed tensions elsewhere. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint on the main road linking Jerusalem to Israeli settlements, killing a soldier and wounding three people.
The three attackers were killed, according to police, who said the assailants had assault rifles, handguns and hatchets, and were preparing a large-scale attack in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
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