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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
The Associated Press
Published: 29 October 2023

Israeli troops and armor pushed deeper into the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, reaching built-up areas as the U.N. and medical staff warned that airstrikes are hitting closer to hospitals, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter alongside thousands of wounded.

The increasing ground operations came a day after 33 trucks carrying food, medicine and other supplies entered Gaza from Egypt, the largest convoy of humanitarian aid since the war between Israel and Hamas began. Relief workers said Monday the assistance still fell far short of needs in Gaza, which has been under siege for weeks.

The Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, said the death toll among Palestinians passed 8,000, many women and minors, as Israeli tanks and infantry pursued what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “second stage” in the war ignited by Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 incursion.

The toll is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas's initial attack, also an unprecedented figure.

Internet and phone connectivity disrupted by Israel's heavy bombardment of Gaza were restored for many people on Sunday, even as the Israeli military intensified its strikes on the besieged enclave from the land, air and sea.

The Israeli strikes had knocked out most communications in the territory late Friday and largely cut off its 2.3 million people from the world. Communications were restored to many in Gaza early Sunday, according to the telecoms company Paltel, Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmation on the ground.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday called the three-week-old Israel-Hamas war a fight for Israel’s existence and said “‘Never again’ is now.”

More than 1,400 men women and children were brutally killed in Israel during a terror attack by Hamas militants, including at least 310 soldiers, according to the Israeli government. At least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza, and four hostages have been released.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia says it hit base housing US forces in Syria 

An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia says it launched drone strikes on a base housing U.S. forces in eastern Syria.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for a series of strikes on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria over the past two weeks, claimed responsibility on Sunday for the latest attack. The group has said the attacks are in retaliation for U.S. support for Israel.

According to the Pentagon, as of Friday there had been at least 20 attacks on U.S. bases and personnel in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, and 21 U.S. personnel were injured in two of those assaults when drones targeted al-Assad airbase in Iraq and al-Tanf garrison in Syria.

Israeli airstrikes hit areas near Gaza's largest hospital

CAIRO — Israeli airstrikes have hit areas around Gaza’s largest hospital, residents say, destroying roads leading to the facility, which is a major shelter for Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombardment.

The Israeli military has renewed longstanding allegations in recent days that top Hamas leaders and operatives have built underground bunkers below Shifa hospital and accused the militant group of using civilians as human shields. Israel has not presented evidence, and Hamas denies the claims.

“Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult,” Mahmoud al-Sawah, who was sheltering in the hospital, said over the phone on Sunday. “It seems they want to cut off the area.”

Another Gaza resident, Abdallah Sayed, described the Israeli air and land attacks in the past two days as “the most violent and intense” since the war started.

UN security council schedules emergency meeting for Monday 

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza on Monday afternoon at the request of the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the council.

Internet and telephone connectivity restored for many in Gaza 

CAIRO — Internet and telephone connectivity was restored Sunday morning for many people in Gaza, according to the telecoms company Paltel, Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmation on the ground.

For more than 24 hours, people in the besieged Gaza Strip were not able to communicate with each other or seek help amid a relentless Israeli bombardment. The narrow coastal area had suffered a total communication blackout since late Friday, adding to the misery of more than 2.3 million people living there. Many residents, especially in the northern half of the strip, were not able to call ambulances to transfer injured people to hospitals or to seek help for those trapped under the rubble of bombed houses.

“The aggressive bombardment was horrible,” said Raed Sharif, a volunteer helping transport wounded people to hospitals in Gaza city. “There were striking everywhere.”

Doctors Without Borders medical group said the communication blackout had further isolated the population suffering under siege and bombardment. The blackout also limited the group's ability to coordinate and provide medical assistance, it said.

Red Crescent says blackout keeping aid outside Gaza 

JERUSALEM — No international aid entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday, as the communications blackout created by Israel continued.

Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent, told The Associated Press that no aid trucks entered Gaza on Saturday because communication was impossible and teams inside Gaza couldn't connect with Egyptian Red Crescent or United Nations personnel.

Before Saturday, a total of 84 aid trucks were let into Gaza, a tiny amount for a population of 2.3 million people in need of power, food, medical supplies and clean drinking water.

Second US aircraft carrier group moves into Mediterranean 

WASHINGTON — The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and its strike group has moved through the Strait of Gibraltar, putting two American carriers in the Mediterranean Sea, a rare sight in recent years.

The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is already in the eastern Mediterranean, part of a buildup of forces as the U.S. supports Israel in its war against Hamas.

The Eisenhower sailed into the Mediterranean on Saturday and is slated to move through the Suez Canal to the U.S. Central Command region as the American forces expand their presence in the Middle East to deter Iran and its proxy militant groups from trying to widen the war.

Communications blackout has Palestinians panicking

Now that Israeli bombs have cut off cellular and internet service for most of the 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip, it has fallen to a rare few Palestinians with international SIM cards or powered-up satellite phones to get the news out.

They described scenes of panic and confusion as Israel’s military attacks from the air, land and sea in the most intense bombing yet in the three week war. Without social media to share their plight with the world, many seem consumed with fear and hopelessness.

Reached by WhatsApp, freelance photojournalist Ashraf Abu Amra in northern Gaza said the international community must intervene to save the people of Gaza from immediate death. Palestinian journalist Hind al-Khoudary reported that some 50,000 people have converged on Gaza’s largest hospital, where doctors are exhausted from operating on patient after patient using dwindling fuel and medical supplies.

GOP candidates offer unbridled support for Israel

LAS VEGAS — Republican presidential candidates are professing unbridled support for Israel in speeches to an influential GOP Jewish group in Las Vegas. The campaign stop came as Israel entered a new phase of its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign and used his last speech as a candidate to called on Democratic President Joe Biden to unconditionally support Israel’s response to a Hamas attack that killed more than 1,000 Israelis.

Candidates Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy also said Israel’s right to defend itself is unequivocal. Nikki Haley noted that former President Donald Trump had lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Hamas attack and referred to the militant group Hezbollah as “very smart.” Trump, the frontrunner, called himself “the best friend Israel ever had.”

Israel calls Hamas prisoner swap offer ‘psychological terror’ 

JERUSALEM — Hamas’s top leader in Gaza Yehia Sinwar said the Palestinian militant groups are ready to release Israeli hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails.

“We are ready immediately to have an exchange deal that includes releasing all prisoners in the prisons of the Zionist occupation enemy in return for the release of all prisoners held by the resistance,” he said in a comment posted Saturday evening on Hamas media groups.

The Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, dismissed the offer as “psychological terror” andsaid Israel is working on multiple channels to free the hostages.

Israel says its warplanes hit 150 underground targets 

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said Saturday that its warplanes struck 150 underground Hamas targets in northern Gaza, including tunnels, combat spaces and other infrastructure. But the extensive labyrinth of tunnels built by Hamas is believed to stretch for hundreds of miles (kilometers), hiding fighters, an arsenal of rockets and now more than 200 Israeli hostages.

Clearing and collapsing those tunnels is crucial to dismantling Hamas. But Israeli’s military could be at a serious disadvantage underground. Urban warfare experts say the militants can be hiding in millions of places, choosing when and where to ambush their enemies.

Former Israeli soldier Ariel Bernstein described urban combat in northern Gaza as a mix of ambushes, traps, hideouts and snipers in tunnels so disorienting that it was like he was fighting ghosts.

Israeli pm says Gaza war is existential, ‘never again is now’ 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war against Hamas will be “long and difficult,” calling it a battle of good versus evil and a struggle for Israel’s existence.

Netanyahu told the nation in a televised news conference Saturday night that Israel has opened a “new phase” in the war – by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea. He said these activities would only increase as Israel prepares for a broad ground invasion.

The goal, he said, is the complete destruction of Hamas.

“We always said, ‘Never again,’” he said. “'Never again' is now.”

Rockets, air strikes and another hospital hit 

A Palestinian militant group in Gaza said it fired barrage of rockets Saturday evening on Tel Aviv and on Ashkelon and Ashdod in southern Israel. The rockets by Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was the latest in a series of rocket attacks on Israel on Saturday.

Israeli forces continued a relentless bombardment. One Israeli airstrike late Saturday afternoon damaged the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia, according to freelance journalist Anas al-Sharif, one of the few journalists in Gaza able to connect to the outside world. He shared images of the hospital's damaged roof.

The Israeli strikes cut off telecommunications and internet access for Gaza's 2.3 million people, disrupting ambulances and aid groups and enabling Israel to control the narrative in the new stage of fighting.

Earlier Saturday, Israeli videos showed columns of armored vehicles moving slowly inside Gaza, the first visual confirmation of ground troops.

Protests spread, calling on Israel to stop Gaza war 

PARIS — Police encircled hundreds of people who defied a ban on a pro-Palestinian demonstration Saturday in central Paris. The officers tried to contain the protest but fired tear gas when tensions rose as a breakaway group tried to march.

The protest collective known as Urgence Palestine called for a cease-fire in the increasingly intense war between Israel and Hamas. Other pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held in Marseille and Strasbourg in the east.

Demonstrations also took place Saturday in Turkey, London, Indonesia, Pakistan, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and New York, where protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge a day after filling Grand Central Station, many wearing black T-shirts saying “Jews say cease-fire now” and “Not in our name.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a rally of hundreds of thousands that Western nations are responsible and that “Israel, we will proclaim you as a war criminal to the world."

Israel dismisses calls for cease-fire and hostage-swap 

JERUSALEM — As Israeli airstrikes and an intensified ground attack pounded northern Gaza on Saturday, a representative for the families of the hostages held by Hamas told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu they support a prisoner swap.

“As far as the families are concerned, a deal of a return of our family members immediately in the framework of “all for all” is feasible, and there will be wide national support for this,” said MeIrav Gonen, the representative. Her daughter, RoMi, is one of the hostages.

Israel’s government has not yet commented on Hamas’s offer to free all the hostages in exchange for Israel releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli jails. It was unclear if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the possibility of a prisoner swap during the meeting with the families, or if he specified any military or diplomatic plan to achieve the release of hostages.

Israel’s military has said it will be able to continue its devastating campaign on Gaza while rescuing the hostages, and has dismissed the possibility of a Hamas-proposed cease-fire deal in exchange for their release. Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Saturday that by proposing the cease-fire, Hamas was engaged in a “cynical exploitation” of their families' anxieties.

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