Communications blackout obscures full picture of Israel’s devastation in Gaza
- 11,470 killed*, including 4,707 children, and more than 29,000 wounded in Gaza
- 197 Palestinians killed and 2,750 injured in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
- Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,200
*This figure covers the casualties from October 7 to November 16.
- Due to the breakdown of communication services in northern Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says it has been facing “significant difficulties” in updating its data regarding death tolls for the past week. New numbers issued cannot take into account the full scope of devastation in northern Gaza and Gaza City, where untold numbers of dead are unable to be retrieved from the rubble given the presence of Israeli forces, with Israeli snipers reportedly shooting at anyone in the streets.
- Israeli forces continue to occupy al-Shifa hospital, as its purported proof of Hamas command center lying under the medical complex fails to convince
- Other hospitals in Gaza have also come under fire, amid continued Israeli airstrikes in both northern and southern Gaza
- Heads of major U.N. humanitarian agencies reject “unilateral” Israeli push for so-called ‘safe zones’ in Gaza
- Paltel says lack of electricity amid fuel shortages has led to a total telecommunications blackout across the Gaza Strip
- Telecom shutdown means international aid isn’t entering the Gaza Strip on Friday, UNRWA says, due to impossibility of coordination
- World Food Program warns of “immediate possibility of starvation” in Gaza
- Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics meanwhile says only 4 percent of people in Gaza currently have access to safe drinking water
- At least five Palestinians killed in the West Bank — three in Jenin and two in Hebron — amid confrontations between Palestinian fighters and Israeli forces
- Israeli forces detain 35 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight
- Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinians seeking to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque
- Armed man is arrested near the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan for allegedly planning an attack — a day after an alleged attack against the Israeli embassy in Japan.
- Jordan says it won’t sign a deal that had planned for Amman to provide energy to Israeli in exchange for water due to the “retaliatory barbarism carried out by Israel” in Gaza
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sues the state of Florida over its ban of pro-Palestinian student groups, calling the move a “dangerous… attack on free speech.”
- The International Center of Justice for Palestinians issues a notice of intention to seek prosecution of Canadian politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for “complicity in war crimes in Gaza.”
Al-Shifa’ Hospital remains occupied by Israeli army
War rages on in Gaza, and the situation at Al-Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City continues to be at the center of attention. Palestinian news agency WAFA says thousands of medical staff, patients, and civilians who had taken refuge in the biggest medical complex in the besieged Gaza Strip have been taken “hostage” by Israeli forces, which have seized Al-Shifa’ since Wednesday over claims that the hospital lies above an underground Hamas command center.
Israeli forces have encircled the hospital with tanks, bulldozers, and snipers for more than a week and have stormed the premises at least three times in as many days, reportedly forcing staff and civilians to strip naked, interrogating and detaining a number of Palestinians, many whose whereabouts are currently unknown, as well as destroying medical equipment. Doctors at Al-Shifa’ said Israeli soldiers had also taken a number of bodies of deceased patients to an unknown location.
The director of Al-Shifa’ told Al Jazeera on Friday that 22 people had died in the hospital overnight. It remained unclear whether an earlier statement by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, which said some 40 patients, including three premature babies, had died at Al Shifa’ since November 11, included these 22.
The bodies of two Israeli hostages — identified as Noa Marciano, 19, and Yehudit Weiss, 65 — captured by Palestinian armed resistance groups on October 7 were retrieved by Israeli forces in the vicinity of Al-Shifa’’, with both Hamas and Israel accusing the other of being behind their deaths.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in an interview with CBS on Thursday that Israel had been “unsuccessful” in sparing civilians but blamed Hamas for making Israel kill thousands of Palestinian children.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the attack on Al-Shifa’ on Thursday, with the OIC calling the “collective punishment and genocide perpetrated against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip […] a war crime under international humanitarian law.”
Amid growing international questioning over Israel’s repeated targeting of hospitals in Gaza in contravention of international law, Tel Aviv has gone into overdrive seeking to prove that Al-Shifa’ is used as a military base — producing some questionable evidence that has been debunked, including a supposed list of names of Hamas guards on duty that turned out to be a calendar with the names of the week. Al Jazeera has also cast doubts on claims that stashes of weapons were found beside an MRI machine, pointing out that the magnetic field of such machines means they are an unlikely hiding spot for any metal objects. Even Israeli media has raised questions about the “anticlimax” of Israeli forces’ raid on Al-Shifa’.
The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor called on Friday for an international investigation into Israel’s “absurd claims” about Al-Shifa’. Israel has repeatedly questioned the credibility of Palestinian reports from within the Gaza Strip, all while restricting entrance to foreign observers and journalists and targeting the small Palestinian territory’s telecommunications network. Paltel Group, the largest provider of telecom services in Palestine, announced on Thursday evening that all landline, mobile, and internet services were disrupted across the Gaza Strip due to electricity shortages.
“The Israeli army’s insistence on barring the media, international organisations, health officials, and non-governmental organisations’ presence in hospitals during the raids should raise great concern […] and casts doubt on any army narrative,” Euro-Med Monitor wrote. “Hospitals are not battlegrounds.”
While the Israeli army claims it is “close to dismantling” Hamas in northern Gaza, and claimed to have killed a former senior Fatah operative, Khaled Abu Halal, on Friday, Palestinian armed resistance groups said on Telegram that fierce fighting was ongoing in Gaza City, Beit Lahia, and Beit Hanoun, and that a number of Israeli soldiers had been killed.
Humanitarian situation further devolves as Israeli strikes continue pummeling Gaza
Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, Israeli bombardments continued unabated. WAFA news agency reported deadly airstrikes since Thursday in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Radwan, Tuffah, Shujaa’ya, and Yafa Street in Gaza City, as well as Nuseirat and Jabalia refugee camps. At least 21 people were killed in several strikes across Jabalia, with Al Jazeera reporting that people were digging through the rubble “with bare hands” searching for survivors.
Meanwhile, a school in the southern Gaza City neighborhood of al-Zaytoun was also hit, Al Jazeera reported.
Israeli airstrikes also hit southern Gaza, including Rafah and Khan Younis, which Israel has continued to claim is a “safe zone” Palestinians should flee to to escape the combat zone in northern and central Gaza.
The strikes in Khan Younis took place in the vicinity of al-Nasr hospital, in yet another endangering of medical facilities in Gaza, more than two-thirds of which have gone out of service. Israeli tanks were reportedly surrounding Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, preventing ambulances from going out to rescue any wounded, while seven staff members at the Jordanian Field Hospital were injured in a strike.
The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has meanwhile reported more than 1,000 Israeli strikes with white phosphorus in the span of 40 days.
Humanitarian agencies and Palestinian organizations continue to raise the alarm about the calamitous situation in Gaza, with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics saying that Palestinians in Gaza had gone from using 82.7 liters of water per person per day before October 7 to between one to three liters per day now, adding that only 4 percent of people in Gaza are believed to currently have access to clean water.
The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) meanwhile said on Friday that civilians faced the “immediate possibility of starvation” in Gaza. UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, reported aid would not cross from Egypt into Gaza on Friday, as the breakdown of communication networks prevented the coordination of humanitarian convoys.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told journalists on Thursday that he believed there was “a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation and paralyse the UNRWA operation,” adding that Israel’s continued refusal to allow the entry of fuel into Gaza threatened all humanitarian operations there.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the highest-level humanitarian coordination platform of the U.N., issued a statement on Thursday saying the leaders of the United Nations’ major agencies would not take part in “unilateral proposals to create ‘safe zones’” in Gaza — a rebuke of Israel’s ongoing pressure to push more and more civilians into a smaller and smaller portion of the already tiny Gaza Strip, without providing them actual safety.
“Under the prevalent conditions, proposals to unilaterally create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza risk creating harm for civilians, including large-scale loss of life, and must be rejected. Without the right conditions, concentrating civilians in such zones in the context of active hostilities can raise the risk of attack and additional harm,” the statement said. “No ‘safe zone’ is truly safe when it is declared unilaterally or enforced by the presence of armed forces.”
Five Palestinians killed in the West Bank
Violence continued across the occupied West Bank overnight, with at least three Palestinian fighters confirmed to have been killed by Israeli forces during fierce armed confrontations in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp.
Four of the Jenin area’s five hospitals were reportedly out of service as Israeli forces besieged Ibn Sina hospital and interrogated staff.
Two more Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces at one of the entrances to the city of Hebron on Friday morning. Israeli forces claimed the two Palestinians had fired at soldiers, while reporting no injuries on the Israeli side.
This comes a day after three Palestinians killed one Israeli soldier and wounded five others at a Bethlehem-area checkpoint before being themselves killed.
At least five Palestinians, including two children, were wounded by Israeli forces in the past day in Masafer Yatta, Deir Nidham, and Beita. Meanwhile, at least 35 Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces across the occupied West Bank overnight — 28 of them in Nilin, a village well known for its regular anti-occupation protests.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces fired tear gas at worshippers seeking to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, newspaper Al-Quds reported.
Meanwhile, two 14-year-old Palestinian citizens of Israel from the town of Umm al-Fahm were charged with attempted murder of an Israeli soldier on Friday.
While Palestinian armed groups have continued to shoot rockets from Gaza into areas in southern Israel, the Lebanese Hezbollah movement has claimed to have hit a dozen locations in northern Israel since Thursday. Israeli forces have struck a number of areas in southern Lebanon, L’Orient Today reported.
In Israel, Netanyahu reportedly canceled a visit to visit wounded soldiers in a Tel Aviv hospital, with Ynet reporting that the decision was likely due to concerns that “he would be met by protests from the families of the wounded,” as was the case with Transportation Minister Miri Regev. Thousands of Israelis have been marchingfor the past three days, calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza, with another protest planned outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday. Some families of hostages have expressed anger at the Israeli government for seemingly not prioritizing the safe return of their loved ones, while opposition leader Yair Lapid has publicly called on Netanyahu to resign because the public has lost trust in him.
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