December 11, 2023

Gaza lost communications in its third total outage of the conflict so far, as Israel’s military said it had divided the Palestinian territory into two.

Israeli media reported the country’s troops are expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours, having encircled the area.

Strong explosions were seen in northern Gaza overnight, with the conflict now in its fifth week after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October.

Follow live: Israeli troops ‘to enter major city within 48 hours’

Fire and smoke rises from buildings in Gaza City on Sunday. Pic: AP

At the British embassy in Lebanon, some workers and their family members have been temporarily withdrawn as fears grow the war could spiral into a regional conflict – with Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group having traded fire along their border.

The UK Foreign Office has advised against “all travel to Lebanon” and warned of “civil unrest”.

It came before Hamas’s armed wing in Lebanon said it had launched 16 rockets from the country towards the northern Israeli cities of Nahariyya and southern Haifa. The Israeli military said 30 rockets were launched at Israel from Lebanon in the last hour.

Other key developments:
• Hamas says ‘Gaza holocaust’ is taking place
• US ‘sends Iran a message saying it is seeking a ceasefire’
• Number of people dead in Gaza during conflict rises to 10,022
Gaza border authority says Rafah crossing into Egypt is open
Three Palestinians ‘killed after Israeli forces shot at their car in West Bank’

A map showing the evacuation zone of northern Gaza down to the Wadi Gaza.
Israel says Gaza has now been divided in two as its troops operate in the north

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan gave a news conference earlier after Israel said the militant group had been stockpiling weapons under the Sheikh Hamad Hospital in Gaza.

He called on the UN to inspect hospitals in Gaza to observe Israeli “war crimes” and see that there is no Hamas presence inside them.

Mr Hamdan was stood next to a screen which had a photograph with the caption “Gaza Holocaust”, before he claimed Israel had targeted Gaza’s civilians deliberately, destroying some 250,000 homes in the process.

‘Refugee camps targeted’ as attacks continue on Gaza

It came a day after Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters the war has reached a “significant stage” as Israeli troops operate in Gaza, adding: “Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza.”

The temporary collapse in connectivity across Gaza on Monday, reported by internet access advocacy group and confirmed by Palestinian telecom company Paltel, has made it difficult for Palestinians and aid workers to contact people outside the territory.

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Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the UN Palestinian refugee agency, said it had “lost communication with the vast majority” of its members.

It came after Israeli warplanes were reported to have struck two refugee camps on Sunday.

The Maghazi refugee camp was one of those hit, with at least 40 people killed and 34 wounded, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said.

An Associated Press reporter at a nearby hospital saw eight dead children, including a baby, brought in after the strike.

The second airstrike was reported to have hit a house near a school at the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. Staff at al Aqsa Hospital told the AP at least 13 people were killed.

Israel has not confirmed it carried out the strikes.

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Man loses four children in Gaza

Israel has said it will press on with its offensive with the aiming of crushing Hamas, despite US appeals for even brief pauses to get aid to civilians.

On the ground, Israeli forces in Gaza have reported finding stashes of weapons, at times including explosives, suicide drones and missiles as they operate in the territory.

Gaza’s health ministry has said 10,022 Palestinians have been killed, with more than 4,000 of them children and minors.

Officials in Israel have said 1,400 people have been killed in the country during the conflict.

The Gaza border authority has said the Rafah crossing which allows people in the Palestinian territory to cross into Egypt is open again.

Egyptians and foreign nationals who are on an approved list are able to cross, it added.

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Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister has claimed the US sent a message to Iran in the past three days saying it was seeking a ceasefire in Gaza.

“However, in practice we saw nothing but their support of genocide in Gaza,” Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV.

It came as US secretary of state Antony Blinken met his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan on Monday.

Speaking at the airport in the Turkish capital Ankara, Mr Blinken said they discussed efforts to expand humanitarian efforts in Gaza and to prevent the conflict in the region from spreading.

The US secretary of state said it would be seen in the coming days whether humanitarian assistance can expand in significant ways.

It comes after he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, a day after meeting Arab foreign ministers in Jordan.

Mr Abbas, who has had no authority in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007, said the Palestinian Authority would only assume control of Gaza as part of a “comprehensive political solution” establishing an independent state that includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 war.

His remarks seemed to further narrow the already slim options for who would govern Gaza if Israel topples Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority has partial control over the West Bank where the health ministry says three Palestinians have been killed after Israeli forces shot at their car in the city of Tulkarm.

Violence in the West Bank has intensified since Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October.

At least 132 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been killed, 124 of those by Israeli forces and eight by Israeli settlers, said Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.