KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip – Gaza Strip’s internet and telephone services were down on Thursday due to a lack of fuel, a major Palestinian provider said, causing a potentially long-term communications blackout as Israel signaled that its offensive against Hamas could next target the south, where most of the population took shelter.
Israeli troops searched Shifa hospital in the north for a second day for traces of Hamas. They showed what they claimed was the entrance to the tunnel and weapons found in a truck within the complex. But the military has not yet released evidence of the existence of a Hamas central command center, which Israel says is hidden beneath the complex. Hamas and the staff of Gaza’s largest hospital deny the allegations.
READ: Israel searches for traces of Hamas in raid on key hospital in Gaza
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 also found assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. She did not provide the cause of her death.
The communications blackout largely cuts off Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from each other and the outside world, deepening a serious humanitarian crisis in southern Gaza even as Israeli airstrikes continue there. The UN World Food Program has warned of the “imminent possibility of famine” in Gaza due to the collapse of food supplies under Israel’s seal and too little food arriving from Egypt.
The war, now in its sixth week, was sparked by an October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel in which militants killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured about 240 men, women and children. Weiss, the woman whose body was found Thursday, is the third hostage to die, four others have been freed and one has been rescued.
READ: Israeli armed forces raided the largest hospital in Gaza where operations against Hamas were carried out
Israel responded to the attack with a week-long air campaign and ground invasion of northern Gaza, vowing to remove Hamas from power and destroy its military capabilities.
According to Palestinian health authorities, more than 11,470 Palestinians have died, two-thirds of them women and minors. Another 2,700 people were reported missing, probably buried under the rubble. Official counts do not distinguish between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel claims it has killed thousands of militants.
READ: Israeli military says it found signs of hostages being held in Gaza hospital