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Northern Gaza 'very scary' with continuous Israeli bombardment and telecoms blackout

The suspension of Unrwa funding from several donor countries threatens to further endanger the lives of Palestinians in Gaza
Palestinians look through garbage in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip on 29 January, 2024
Palestinians look through garbage in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip on 29 January 2024 (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

The number of Palestinians killed since the start of Israel’s latest war on Gaza has surpassed 27,000, Gaza’s health ministry said on Thursday.

As bombings continue and humanitarian aid runs short, the living situation has become increasingly dangerous.

“The situation in the north is very difficult, it is miserable, many areas have become extremely dangerous,” Middle East Eye’s correspondent in Gaza said.

He added that Israeli forces killed at least 20 Palestinians in Gaza who were on their way to get flour on Wednesday.

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“Four of them were my friends…every day people are being killed while going on their way to find flour,” he said. 

The correspondent, who is not being named for security reasons, said many people in the north of the strip are confused due to the “random” ongoing attacks.

'Yesterday there were heavy attacks in the Mughrabi area, where I am from. There were many killed who are still left on the ground…'

- Gaza correspondent

According to him, residents have crowded into the al-Sahaba area, al-Darraj, Shujaiyya and the Zaytoun neighbourhoods.

“It is a very scary situation, and there is also a communications blackout. People are being forced to go to high-up locations to get phone signal,” he added.

“I went to go to a pitch to get phone signal, and it was immediately targeted by Israeli forces; two people were killed and many were wounded.”

Moreover, he said that Israeli forces are searching and raiding homes in northern Gaza on foot.

"Yesterday there were heavy attacks in the Mughrabi area, where I am from. There were many killed who are still left on the ground… there is a heavy presence of Israeli forces, especially in the al-Tayaran area," he said. 

He added that it was unclear if the forces would remain in the area or not, but the area remains dangerous.

Unrwa defunding threatens livelihood of Palestinians

Meanwhile, the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Unrwa, said its operations may be forced to shut down by the end of February should funding remain suspended.

War on Gaza: Netanyahu says Unrwa mission 'must be terminated'
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Top donor countries including the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland suspended their funding after Israel accused 12 of the agency’s staff of taking part in the Hamas-led assault on Israel on 7 October, which killed 1,139 people.

The shutdown of Unrwa’s operations would include all countries in which the agency is present and not just the Gaza Strip, according to spokesperson Juliette Touma.

Norway, one of the donor countries that decided to keep funding the agency, said that countries may reverse their decision and resume their funding.

“I am reasonably optimistic that we will get funding back on track,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters on Thursday.

Norway has called on countries that suspended their funding to consider the devastating consequences this could have on the civilian population in Gaza.

Iran pulls out Revolutionary Guards from Syria

Elsewhere, Iran will reportedly pull out senior officers in its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Syria following several Israeli strikes on its positions in the country.

Israeli strikes in Syria have killed at least half a dozen Iranian officers, including a top IRGC intelligence general.

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that while Iran has no intention of leaving Syria entirely, it was reconsidering its options and approaches due to the war in Gaza. Iran wishes to avoid being dragged directly into a regional war, and therefore withdrew senior and mid-ranking officers.

This follows an announcement by Iran-backed Iraqi group Kataib Hezbollah saying it would halt military and security actions against US forces in the region.

The US had previously claimed it would retaliate to a drone strike that killed three American soldiers in Jordan, believing Kataib Hezbollah was behind it.

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