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Live updates | Israel knocks out Gaza communications as protesters call for end to the war

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Israel knocked out communications and created a near-blackout of information by striking targets in the Gaza Strip with stepped-up bombardment and artillery fire overnight and into Saturday.

Explosions from continuous airstrikes lit up the sky over Gaza City for hours after nightfall Friday as the Israeli military said it was expanding ground operations in the territory, signaling a move closer to an all-out invasion of Gaza meant to crush the ruling Hamas militant group after its bloody rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The Palestinian telecom provider, Paltel, said the bombardment caused “complete disruption” of internet, cellular and landline services as the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people were largely cut off from contact with the outside world. Some satellite phones continued to function.



The Palestinian death toll passed 7,300. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which tracks the toll, released a detailed list including names and ID numbers on Thursday. In the occupied West Bank, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids since the war’s start three weeks ago.

More than 1,400 people were slain in Israel during the Hamas incursion, including at least 310 soldiers, according to the Israeli government. At least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza, and four hostages were released earlier.

Currently:

Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

JAKARTA, Indonesia – More than 3,000 protesters marched to the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Indonesia’s capital on Saturday to demand an end to the war and bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags, the protesters, many wearing white Islamic robes, filled a major thoroughfare in downtown Jakarta running outside the embassy. About 1,000 police were deployed around the compound, which is blocked off by concrete road barriers.

The protesters, organized by the Indonesian Ulema Council, known as MUI, chanted “God is Great” and “Freedom for Palestine” during the noisy but peaceful protest. Banners and placards proclaimed, “We stand with Gaza,” and slammed the Israeli government while denouncing the staunch U.S. support of Israel.

“We are not willing to allow our brothers and sisters in Palestine to be tyrannized or genocided by Israel,” MUI Secretary General of MUI Amirsyah Tambunan told the crowd. “We will continue to support and fight for Palestinian independence and sovereignty.”

NEW YORK – Hundreds of protesters in black T-shirts filled New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush hour on Friday to demand a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Many of the protesters were detained by police and taken out of the station, their hands zip tied behind their backs. The NYPD could not immediately say how many were taken into custody.

“Hundreds of Jews and friends are taking over Grand Central Station in a historic sit-in calling for a ceasefire,” advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace said on social media.

Inside the main concourse, protesters wearing shirts that read “cease-fire now” and “not in our name” chanted, with some holding banners in front of the list of departure times. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked commuters to use Penn Station as an alternative.

The scene echoed last week’s sit-in where more than 300 people were arrested for illegally demonstrating on Capitol Hill in Washington.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The dull orange glow of Israeli flares shone in the night sky over Gaza, slowly descending through the haze to illuminate targets for warplanes before eventually flickering out, plunging the scene back into darkness.

Multiple explosions from Israeli airstrikes tore into northern Gaza on Friday, quick flashes of bright orange silhouetted against the rooftops of Palestinian apartments and refugee camps. The sharp crunching sound of the bombs followed each time, seconds later, one after another.

Overhead, the buzz of Israeli military drones cut through, growing quieter and louder as the crafts circled the airspace.

For most Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, their world has shrunk to these few sounds and colors.

Israel dramatically ramped up its bombardment Friday after knocking out internet and communication in Gaza, largely cutting off the tiny besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from contact with each other and the outside world.

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution on Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

It was the first U.N. response to Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and Israel’s ongoing military response and vow to obliterate Hamas.

The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions after rejecting a Canadian amendment backed by the United States to unequivocally condemn the “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demand the immediate release of hostages taken by the militant group.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Premature babies wiggle and squirm, some with oxygen tubes under their noses, in rows of clear plastic incubators inside the neonatal unit of Gaza’s largest hospital, which, like the rest of the besieged Palestinian territory, is running out of fuel, food, water and electricity.

Doctors in Gaza say conditions have reached catastrophic levels. They say a lack of basic supplies has left them struggling to maintain hygiene and sanitation, and hospital grounds are overcrowded with displaced civilians seeking refuge from Israeli airstrikes.

“We have noticed an increase in premature birth cases,” said Dr. Nasser Bulbul, head of the NICU at al-Shifa Hospital.

“We had to perform a premature delivery of the fetus from the mother’s womb while she’s dying,” he said. “Many of these infants are orphaned, and we don’t know the fate of their relatives or have information about their identities.”

Around 50,000 pregnant women are caught up in the conflict, with around 5,500 due to give birth within the next 30 days, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

If fuel supplies run out, neonatal intensive care units will be impacted and planned or emergency caesarean sections will be impossible, the U.N. agency said.

NEW YORK – The Committee to Protect Journalists says the past three weeks have been the deadliest on record for journalists covering conflict since the organization started tracking in 1992.

The organization said in a statement Friday that at least 29 journalists have died covering the Israel-Hamas war since it ignited Oct. 7, including 24 Palestinians, four Israelis and 1 Lebanese. Additionally, 8 other journalists were reported injured and 9 were reported missing or detained.

CPJ also criticized the cutting of communications services in the Gaza Strip, warning that the blackout is also a “news blackout” that has compromised the public’s ability to “know and understand what is happening in this conflict.”

“This can lead to serious consequences with an independent, factual information vacuum that can be filled with deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation,” it said.

The organization stressed that journalists are civilians that must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law, adding that “deliberating targeting journalists or media infrastructure constitutes possible war crimes.”

WASHINGTON – White House National Security spokesman John Kirby repeatedly refused to comment on Israel saying its ground forces were expanding activity in Gaza and also refused to comment on what a satisfactory long-term objective might be for the fighting.

“We’re not drawing red lines for Israel,” Kirby said Friday on a call with reporters. “We’re going to continue to support them” but “since the very beginning we have, and will continue to have, conversations about the manner that they are doing this.”

Kirby said the U.S. is still evaluating the impact of airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias and “we will not hesitate to take further actions in our own self-defense.”

He also said 10 additional trucks filled with humanitarian aid had made it to Gaza, bringing the total to 84, but that the U.S. is aware that fuel there “is only anticipated to last a couple of days.”

The White House previously said President Joe Biden was briefed Friday morning by his national security team on the latest developments in Israel and Gaza.

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Aid groups say the communications blackout in the Gaza Strip has not only left them unable to contact their staff, but has also impeded their operations in the territory.

“It doesn’t only mean that Gaza is isolated from the world but also it means people can’t connect to each other. Our emergency line is down so people are literally not able to call an ambulance,” said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent. “We are extremely worried because we are completely cut off from our teams.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross also said it’s currently unable to reach its staff in Gaza.

“We are deeply worried for their safety and the safety of all civilians where hostilities are taking place,” the organization said in a statement. “Without access to information in a communication blackout, people don’t know where to go for safety.”

JERUSALEM – The Israeli military on Friday said its ground forces were “expanding their activity” in the Gaza Strip, as the army moved closer to a full-on ground invasion of the besieged territory.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the army’s spokesman, said aerial attacks had been targeting Hamas tunnels and other targets.

“In addition to the attacks that we carried out in recent days, ground forces are expanding their activity this evening,” he said. “The IDF is acting with great force … to achieve the objectives of the war.”

Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border with Gaza ahead of an expected ground offensive against the Hamas militant group.

Israel has been pounding Gaza with airstrikes since Hamas militants carried out a bloody cross-border incursion on Oct. 7.

VATICAN CITY – Amid signs of escalating tensions in the Middle East, Pope Francis led special prayers Friday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica for a world “in a dark hour” and in “great danger” from what he described as the folly of war.

In his remarks, delivered in the form of a prayer to the Virgin Mary, Francis didn’t mention by name the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which exploded into war after the Hamas attack against Israelis on Oct. 7.

Instead, he said he was praying for “especially those countries and regions at war.”

“Intercede for our world, in such turmoil and great danger,″ the pope prayed, in apparent reference to widespread anxiety that the Israeli-Hamas war could quickly develop into a wider, regional war in the Middle East.

RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian telecom provider Paltel says internet service in Gaza Strip has been cut off by Israeli bombardment. Services were cut Friday evening, following a heavy round of Israeli airstrikes that lit up the night sky over the darkened territory.

Rights groups and journalists also say they lost contact with colleagues in the enclave. The Associated Press’s attempts to contact people in Gaza did not go through.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.



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