Ramallah, October 28, 2023—Israeli forces further escalate bombardment in Gaza amid a total communications blackout cutting off Palestinians from the outside world.
Palestinians in Gaza are unable to communicate between each other and with family and others outside of the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces cut mobile phone, landline, and internet services yesterday. Defense for Children International - Palestine, like many other Palestinian and international human rights organizations and United Nations agencies, completely lost contact with our staff in Gaza. Some limited communications are still possible via satellite.
Israeli military officials announced yesterday that Israeli ground forces were expanding operations in the Gaza Strip as Israel intensified its bombardment overnight, according to news media reports. The Israeli military recently reissued a call for Palestinian residents in the northern areas of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south as Israeli ground forces confront Palestinian armed group fighters in various locations, according to Al Jazeera.
“Israeli forces are demonstrating there is no limit to the violence they are willing to unleash on an overwhelmingly young occupied Palestinian population that is displaced and starving in Gaza,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces have closed the curtains as they pursue an unprecedented military offensive against Palestinians in Gaza where children are undoubtedly targets.”
Israeli forces have killed 3,195 Palestinian children in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, in three weeks since the Israeli military unleashed a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip on October 7 after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets toward Israel and breached the Israeli perimeter fence surrounding Gaza, launching attacks inside Israel.
The fatality and injury numbers provided by the Ministry of Health in Gaza only account for people admitted to hospitals, and an estimated 1,000 Palestinian children are reported missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings, indicating the actual death toll is much higher.
International human rights’ watchdog organizations warned that the near-total telecommunications blackout by Israeli authorities risks providing cover for mass atrocities. "This information blackout risks providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations," the group's senior technology and human rights researcher, Deborah Brown, said in a statement.
The Palestinian telecommunications provider Jawwal says there is a "complete interruption of all communication and internet services with the Gaza strip in light of the ongoing aggression," which it says has cut the "last of the international routes" connecting Gaza to the outside world, according to the BBC.
International media and aid organizations, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the UN World Food Program, Doctors without Borders, and many others have also lost contact with their staff in Gaza.
Children are at heightened risk of loss of life, physical harm, severe emotional distress, and protracted displacement following the announced “expanded ground operations” by Israeli forces in Gaza, said Save the Children in a statement yesterday. Children will bear the brunt of the “intensification of attacks” in Gaza, with more deaths, injuries, and distress likely, said the aid agency, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The United Nations General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities, the first United Nations response to the active hostilities.
35 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7, according to documentation collected by DCIP, when the Israeli military began a full-scale bombardment on the Gaza Strip dubbed Operation Iron Swords.
At least 108 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank since October 7, according to UN OCHA.
The State of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in,” reservist Major General Giora Eiland told Israeli media. “Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal. Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”
“Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell,” said Major General Ghassan Alian, head of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Under international law, genocide is prohibited and constitutes the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group, in whole or in part. Genocide can result from killing or by creating conditions of life that are so unbearable it brings about the group’s destruction.
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires all parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. Deploying explosive weapons in densely-populated civilian areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks and carrying out direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects amounts to war crimes.
Israeli authorities have imposed a closure policy against the Gaza Strip since 2007 by strictly controlling and limiting the entry and exit of individuals; maintaining harsh restrictions on imports including food, construction materials, fuel, and other essential items; as well as prohibiting exports. Israel continues to maintain complete control over the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace, and territorial waters.