Latest Gaza Crisis: Unraveling the Grave Communication Blackout – Essential Information

The Gaza Strip faced another communications blackout over the weekend, leaving its 2.2 million residents cut off from internet, cellphone, and landline telephone networks. This marks the third time the enclave has experienced such a blackout since Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7. The blackouts have effectively isolated Gaza’s residents from the outside world and from each other, hindering their ability to gather information and contact emergency services during heavy strikes.

But what exactly is a communications blackout? According to Paltel, the main Palestinian telecom provider, the blackout in Gaza involved a complete disruption to internet and communications services that lasted several hours on Sunday evening. Internet monitoring groups also noticed a significant disruption to Gaza’s connectivity. Alp Toker, the director of cybersecurity monitoring group NetBlocks, noted a significant drop in internet connectivity across Gaza at 6:20 p.m. local time on Sunday, adding that fixed line and domestic cellular connectivity, including calls, were completely knocked out. The blackout rendered satellite phones, satellite dishes, and foreign SIM cards the only means of communication with the outside world, leaving most Gazans without access to the internet.

NetBlocks has been tracking a gradual deterioration in internet connectivity levels since the war began, with three collective communications blackouts occurring on October 27, November 1, and November 5. Each blackout lasted several hours before connectivity abruptly returned to pre-disruption levels across the strip. Toker suggests technical disruption as the most likely cause, rather than damage from military strikes, which typically take longer to repair. With Gaza heavily reliant on Israeli upstream providers, Toker believes Israeli authorities have the technical capability to cut off internet access to the enclave if desired.

Life under a communications blackout is especially difficult for Gazans. Without telephone signal or internet access, the blackouts have created a digital darkness, making it nearly impossible for residents to contact loved ones or access up-to-date information. Emergency services have also struggled to respond to casualties due to the hindrances caused by the blackouts. The blackouts have caused panic and distress among Gaza’s population, raising concerns about a breakdown in civil order, particularly during the blackout on November 5.

Furthermore, the blackouts limit Palestinians’ access to news about the conflict and obstruct journalists in Gaza from reporting on the situation. With news bureaus losing contact with their crews and reporters, the world is losing essential insight into the reality of the war, creating an information vacuum that can be filled with propaganda and misinformation.

The poor connectivity levels in Gaza have been a longstanding issue exacerbated by the blackouts. Internet connectivity levels were already low before the recent blackout, ranging from 30% to 40% of pre-war levels. NetBlocks attributes the decline to power cuts, airstrikes, and reduced connectivity due to population movement. Damage to communications infrastructure, such as the destruction of mobile communication lines and damage to fiber networks, has contributed to the degradation of connectivity levels since the conflict began.

When asked about intentional internet cutoffs in Gaza, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment. However, Israel’s Minister of Communications, Shlomo Karhi, argued that Hamas militants would exploit any attempt to connect Gaza to the internet for terrorist activities. After a previous blackout in October, a senior U.S. official confirmed that Israel was responsible for cutting off communications in Gaza but did not disclose the reasons behind it. The blackout was later reversed after negotiations.

The communications blackouts in Gaza have raised concerns about the humanitarian situation and the ability to provide aid in the region. The blackouts restrict access to vital services and hinder communication between humanitarian agencies and their staff on the ground.


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