Sun. May 26th, 2024


A woman with family in the Gaza Strip says she doesn’t know if she will see any of her relatives again as communication becomes limited due to a blackout there amid the three-week war between Israel and Hamas.


“I’ve lost 18 family members so far and the number’s only escalating,” Riham Balousha, a resident of Mississauga, Ont., told CTV News Channel on Saturday.


She said the past two weeks have been very difficult, especially with the lack of communication with her loved ones.


A couple of days ago, Balousha said her grandfather was able to briefly call her mother to say he was still alive. There has been no such word from him since.


“So it’s been a very devastating situation and what makes it a lot worse is we just don’t know when it’s going to end or if I’m ever going to be able to see any of my family members,” she said.


Israeli bombardments have knocked out most communications in Gaza, The Associated Press reports. The Gaza Strip, with a population of 2.3 million people, has been under siege since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.


A Gaza Health Ministry spokesman told reporters that the communications disruptions have “totally paralyzed” the health network.


The United Nations International Telecommunication Union said Saturday that it “condemns the communication blackout in Gaza and calls for life-saving access to networks to be restored.”


“Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected at all times,” the UN agency added in a post on X, formerly Twitter.


Balousha, who described the situation in Gaza as “essentially a genocide,” said “to not have water, to not have food, it’s a war crime.”


More than 1,400 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed in Israel during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli government says. The Israeli military says the death toll includes at least 311 soldiers.


At least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza, the Israeli government says, with four hostages having since been released.


The Gaza Health Ministry reported Saturday that more than 7,700 people, mostly women and minors, have died in the three weeks since the war began. The ministry says an estimated 1,700 people are trapped under rubble.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening that the military has opened a “second stage” in the war against Hamas by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea.


He said this would increase ahead of a broad ground invasion.


Canadians have been caught on both sides of the conflict. The federal government on Thursday confirmed the death of a seventh unnamed Canadian in the war, while another two Canadians remain missing.


Those identified as having been killed are Shir Georgy, 22; Ben Mizrachi, 22; Netta Epstein, 21; Tiferet Lapidot, who was turning 23 the week of her death; Alexandre Look, 33; and Adi Vital-Kaploun, 33.


Most died following Hamas’ attack on a music festival near the Israel-Gaza border that killed 260 people.


HUMANITARIAN SITUATION


Tommaso Della Longa, spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, described the situation in Gaza as “catastrophic” during an appearance on CTV News Channel Thursday.


“What we are hearing from our colleagues in Gaza is that there is no real safe space to stay,” he said. “And, of course, these are great matter of concern for all of us.”


On top of food and water shortages, the ability of hospitals to provide life-saving services could end if fuel runs out, he said. The continued consumption of unsafe drinking water will also lead to health outbreaks among the population.


While trucks carrying humanitarian aid have been allowed to enter Gaza, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisis said Saturday that the number is far below the needs of the population.


“This is why we are asking — we are calling on — all the parties to get humanitarian aid in, to get safe access for humanitarian worker,” Della Longa said.


CANADA AT THE UN


During an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, members voted in favour of a non-binding resolution sponsored by Jordan that, in part, called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” in the war between Israel and Hamas.


Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, tried unsuccessfully to amend the resolution to explicitly condemn Hamas, which failed to get the two-thirds support needed.


The Canadian government has designated Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, a terrorist entity since 2002.


Although the UN resolution did not mention Hamas, the text did include a section, “Condemning all acts of violence aimed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction.”


The resolution ultimately passed 120-14. Canada was one of 45 countries that abstained from the vote.


This week, the Canadian government called for “humanitarian pauses,” which could allow for the movement of aid, but has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.


Israel’s military has dismissed the possibility of a Hamas-proposed ceasefire deal in exchange for the release of hostages, with a spokesperson calling it a “cynical exploitation” of their families’ anxiety. A representative for the families of hostages held by Hamas says they support a prisoner swap.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as a number of international organizations such as UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders, have called for a ceasefire.


The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Friday that 53 of its colleagues have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.


The organization Humanitarian Coalition, which will receive up to $10 million in matching donations from the Canadian government as part of a campaign to help Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, also is demanding a ceasefire.


With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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