Battles raged in Gaza on Saturday as Israel’s army said it expanded ground operations after intensifying its bombardment of the besieged Palestinian enclave three weeks after the Hamas carried out a raid in Israel.
The United Nations warned of a looming “unprecedented avalanche of human suffering” inside the Gaza Strip, after weeks of relentless Israeli bombing, while the General Assembly called for an “immediate humanitarian truce”.
With tens of thousands of troops massed along the Gaza border ahead of an expected full-blown invasion, Israeli forces had also made limited ground incursions on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The Israeli army said it had increased its strikes “in a very significant way”, while the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said on Telegram it responded with “salvos of rockets”.
In overnight raids, Israeli fighter jets hit 150 “terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure” and “several Hamas terrorists were killed”, the army claimed on Saturday morning.
Hamas said all internet connections and communications across Gaza had been cut, and accused Israel of taking the measure “to perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea”.
Human Rights Watch also warned the near-total telecommunications blackout in Gaza risks providing cover for mass atrocities.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said the communications outage had disrupted ambulance services.
“We have completely lost contact with the operations room in the Gaza Strip and all our teams operating there,” it said on X, formerly Twitter.
Lynne Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, also stressed on X that “hospitals & humanitarian operations can’t continue without communications”.
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, whose inlaws are trapped in Gaza, voiced alarm at the communications shutdown.
“Telecommunications have been cut. We can’t get through to our family who have been trapped in this war zone for almost 3 weeks,” he wrote on X.
The reports of ground fighting came after the UN General Assembly called on Friday for an “immediate humanitarian truce” in Gaza.
The non-binding resolution received overwhelming support, with 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions.
“Today the General Assembly declared a call: stop the war,” the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
It was also welcomed by Hamas, but it was harshly criticised by Israel and the United States for failing to mention Hamas, with Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan calling it an “infamy”.