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WHO loses touch with staff, health workers in Gaza as telecommunications cut off

October 28, 2023 at 4:18 pm

Trucks carrying World Health Organization (WHO) medical supplies, which passed from the Rafah Border Gate between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the Gaza Strip, arrive at Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 23, 2023. [Abed Zagout – Anadolu Agency]

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday lost touch with its staff in Gaza as telecommunications were cut off, said the head of the UN agency, Anadolu reports.

“We have lost touch with our staff in Gaza, with health facilities, health workers and the rest of our humanitarian partners on the ground,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X.

He expressed “grave concerns” for their safety and the risks to vulnerable patients.

“We urge immediate protection of all civilians and full humanitarian access,” he said.

The post came after the Israeli army announced that its ground forces would expand their activities in the Gaza Strip during the night, a signal that a long-feared ground operation may have begun.

Communications and internet services in the Gaza Strip were completely cut off on Friday evening amid heavy Israeli bombing of feeder lines, towers, and networks, the Palestine Telecommunications Company said.

READ: Internet services in Gaza cut off, says Palestinian telecom provider

Ooredoo Palestine, a mobile network operator in the West Bank, said its cellphone services were completely cut off from the Gaza Strip on Friday evening.

The conflict in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian group Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood – a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea, and air.

Hamas said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

The Israeli military then launched a relentless bombardment of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been running out of food, water, medicine, and fuel, and aid convoys recently allowed into Gaza have carried only a fraction of what is needed.

Nearly 8,800 people have been killed in the conflict, including at least 7,326 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis. Some 70% of the deaths in Gaza are women and children, according to official figures.

READ: Blackout of communications, internet in Gaza continues