Palestinians walk among the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, 27 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Israel escalates ground operations in the Gaza Strip

Jerusalem, Oct 27 (EFE).- Israel announced on Friday that it will increase the intensity of ground operations against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which on the same day had its communications cut off by a heavy bombardment.

The spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said that his troops will expand the ground operations in the Gaza Strip in addition to the continued aerial bombardment of the enclave.

The goal is to eliminate Hamas, the perpetrator of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel that killed more than 1,400 civilians and soldiers and kidnapped nearly 230, according to the IDF.

The death toll from Israel’s bombardment of the Strip has risen to 7,326 dead and 18,967 wounded, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry reported Friday.

“As a continuation of the offensive activities we have carried out in recent days, the ground forces will expand their activities tonight,” the spokesman said.

The ground offensive is expected to take place in northern Gaza, as Israel has repeatedly urged the civilian population of the northern half of the enclave, more than one million people, to evacuate to the south for safety, although it has continued to bomb the entire territory of Gaza, including the south.

A destroyed mosque following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, 27 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Communications severed by bombardment

The Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel announced Friday the “complete disruption” of communications, telephone and Internet services in the Gaza Strip.

“The cut is due to the heavy shelling in the last few hours, which damaged the international lines connecting Gaza and caused them to be out of service,” the company confirmed in a statement.

Mutual accusations over Gaza hospitals

Israel on Friday accused Hamas of using hospitals to shield underground operational centers.

“Hamas is using Gaza hospitals to hide an entire command and control infrastructure and as a refuge for some terrorists and their leaders,” Rear Admiral Hagari said in a press conference, referring to the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest in the enclave.

Hagari presented videos, audio and computer simulations provided by Israeli intelligence, showing a complex network of tunnels and rooms in the basement of the hospital, where a sophisticated command and control center of the Palestinian organization was allegedly located.

However, the head of Hamas’ press office in Gaza, Salama Marouf, rejected all the Israeli accusations, saying they were “as false as they are childish” and “within the reach of the mentality of a 10-year-old child.”

In a press appearance at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, Marouf said that these accusations and the evidence presented by Israel are “so naive that they could be fabricated by a sixth-grader.”

“These are false accusations fabricated by the Israelis that do not constitute valid evidence. Israeli warplanes and drones have been flying over our heads for 20 days, and for years before that, but they have failed to provide a single piece of evidence to prove that this facility has tunnels and an underground command center,” Marouf insisted.

Palestinians look at a destroyed building following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, 27 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Israel says that Hamas hoards fuel in Gaza

Similarly, Hagari said that according to intelligence information in Israel’s possession, “there is fuel in Gaza hospitals and Hamas is using it to fuel its own infrastructure.”

Israel has systematically refused to allow fuel into Gaza, despite appeals from various members of the international community in recent days, as essential services such as electricity and drinking water provided by desalination plants have collapsed.

Israel puts number of hostages held by Hamas at 229 The IDF on Friday raised to 229 the number of hostages kidnapped in the Oct. 7 raid and believed to be held by Hamas and other Gaza militias.

This figure does not include the four hostages released so far by Hamas: the American mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan, who were released a week ago, and the two elderly Israeli women, Yochved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, who were released on Monday.

On Thursday, the spokesman of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, Abu Obeida, declared that about 50 hostages had been killed by Israeli bombardments, which the Israeli army has so far refused to comment on. EFE