Internet and cell service have been cut off in the Gaza Strip as Israeli airstrikes intensify on the besieged territory, where more than 7,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants.
News outlets and on-the-ground aid groups reported on Friday that their communications with individuals within Gaza have been severed, and the 2.3 million people who live there are now left in a near-complete digital blackout. Jawal and Paltel, Palestine’s largest internet service providers, said Friday that service had collapsed due to Israel’s bombardment of the region, which has intensified in the last 24 hours. “The intense bombing in the last hour caused the destruction of all remaining international routes linking Gaza to the outside world,” Paltel wrote in a statement.
Rolling Stone reached out to a half-dozen sources throughout Gaza — at major institutions and in private homes. None of the calls went through.
Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for network monitoring company Kentik, told the Washington Post that Israel is the Gaza Strip’s exclusive provider of telecommunications. “Everything has to go through Israel, which would put Israel in a position to just flip it and turn it off if they want to,” said Madory. “I’ve never seen that. It’s mostly just power outages and airstrikes that are contributing to the lack of connectivity.”
“I think they’re in bad shape,” Madory added, referring to the telecom sector in Gaza that may be struggling to make repairs safely amid fighting. “That may expand an outage that might have been fixed more rapidly under better circumstances.”
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization affiliated with the International Red Cross which provides critical emergency medical aid to the region, said they have “completely lost contact with the operations room in Gaza Strip and all our teams operating there.”
Not a single phone in Gaza can be reached right now. Israel completely cut off all communications to Gaza. No internet, no landlines. This is a total blackout. Every person you know from Gaza has completely lost contact with their loved ones.
We know what comes next.
— Hanna Alshaikh – هناء الشيخ (@yalawiya) October 27, 2023
“We are deeply concerned about the ability of our teams to continue providing their emergency medical services, especially since this disruption affects the central emergency number ‘101’ and hinders the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded and injured,” the organization added. Since the Oct. 7 attack, the Gaza Strip has been placed under an intense resource and aid blockade that has cut off water, fuel, and critical supplies to residents of the territory. The only semi-reliable remaining mode of communication for those on the ground is a limited supply of satellite-based equipment.
“We don’t have any internet, we don’t have any kind of signals on our phones, we’ve become totally isolated in the territory,” Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum reported Friday from within Gaza.
Husam Zomlot, an ambassador and head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK, wrote on X that he has “been trying to reach my family in Gaza for hours with no success. All telecommunications and internet have been cut, while Israeli strikes is literally destroying Gaza from air land and sea.”
The communications blackout comes as Israel prepares to mount a ground invasion on the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops have amassed at the borders of the territory.
“In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” Israeli Defense Force Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Friday. “In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight.”
Earlier this week, the United States urged Israel to delay the ground invasion. U.S. officials have raised concerns that the Israeli military lacks a clear objective for their ground incursion and that urban warfare in the densely populated region could result in mass civilian casualties beyond those already killed by Israeli airstrikes.
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