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GENEVA: The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said he feared for civil order in the Gaza Strip after it was hit with a new communications blackout on Thursday.

"Gaza is again in a total communication blackout, and... it is because there is no fuel," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told a press conference in Geneva.

The Palestinian telecom company Paltel confirmed the blackout, saying on X, formerly Twitter: "We regret to announce that all telecom services in Gaza Strip have gone out of service as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in."

Lazzarini said he was worried that a communications blackout could heighten panic in the Gaza Strip and erode the last traces of public order.

The day after a previous communication blackout, "there were groups of hundreds of people who basically went into our warehouse and took whatever was available," he said.

UN chiefs reject unilateral proposals to create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza

"These are signs of a situation when you have a blackout and you cannot communicate with anyone anymore... that triggers and fuels even more the anxiety and the panic.

"This can provoke or accelerate the last remaining civil order that we have in the Gaza Strip. And if this completely breaks down, we will have difficulties to operate in an environment where you do not have a minimum of order."

He said UNRWA staff would be hindered further in providing services in the Gaza Strip if the blackout remains, if they cannot communicate with one another.

"But if the fuel comes, I would expect that we will have a resumption of communication services," he said.

Lazzarini also said he worried there was a deliberate attempt under way to paralyse his agency's operations in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

"I do believe there is a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation and paralyse the UNRWA operation," he said, citing the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the unprecedented attacks of October 7, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli military says 51 of its troops have been killed in Gaza since fighting began.

But with the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza saying the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11,500, including thousands of children, calls for a truce are mounting.

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