Almost complete internet and cellular communication blackout has hit Gaza as Israel intensifies strikes

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Tech / Monday, 30 October 2023 15:03

The largest telecom provider in the Gaza Strip, which was still mostly operational, Paltel, announced on Friday that it had completely ceased all services.

Witnesses and companies monitoring global communication reported that there was almost a complete shutdown of internet and cellular communication across much of the Gaza Strip.

Paltel, the largest telecom provider in the Gaza Strip, announced on Friday that it had completely stopped providing all services after a powerful Israeli airstrike earlier in the day destroyed its last remaining infrastructure connecting it to the global internet.

"Dear people in our beloved homeland, we regret to announce the complete cessation of all communication and internet services with the Gaza Strip in light of the ongoing aggression," Paltel said in a statement translated by NBC News. "Intense bombings that have taken place over the past hour have led to the destruction of all remaining international routes connecting Gaza with the outside world, in addition to the routes previously destroyed during the aggression, leading to the cessation of all communication services from our beloved Gaza Strip. May God protect you and protect our country."

Isik Mater, the director of research at NetBlocks, a British company that tracks global internet connectivity, said that the explosion resulted in the largest disruption of the internet since the conflict began.

"Today's incident represents the largest disruption of internet connectivity in the Gaza Strip since the conflict began and will be perceived by many as a complete or near-complete internet shutdown," Mater said. "The loss of international routes is likely to severely limit the ability of residents to communicate with the outside world."

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society released a statement on Friday, saying that the outages are likely to create serious issues for emergency medical services in the Gaza Strip.

"We have completely lost contact with the operations room in the Gaza Strip and all of our teams working there because the Israeli authorities have cut all wired, cellular, and internet communications," the group said. "We are deeply concerned about the ability of our teams to continue providing emergency medical care, especially since this disruption affects the central emergency number '101' and hinders the arrival of ambulances to the injured and affected."

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said on Friday that they had "increased the number of airstrikes in Gaza," including striking infrastructure they claim is used by terrorists.

Telecommunication services in the Gaza Strip had already severely deteriorated since the beginning of the conflict. Some reported on social media that power outages were a result of bombs hitting their infrastructure.

Internet providers and cellular towers require significant power to operate. Israel cut off the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip following Hamas' attacks, and on October 11, the sole power plant in the Gaza Strip ran out of fuel.

Doug Madory, the director of internet analysis at Kentik, an internet monitoring company, said that the current power outage is much worse than the last major power outage in Gaza, where limited electricity forced many internet providers to restrict access and rely on generators.

As of Friday morning, the internet and cellular communication remained completely cut off in the Gaza Strip.

Belal Khaled, a photographer from Gaza, told NBC News via WhatsApp that there was a complete shutdown of the internet and cellular communication. He said he was only able to communicate because he had brief access to satellite internet.

In an official press statement, Hamas said that the cutoff of internet and phones "warns of the occupation's intention to commit new mass killings and genocide away from the eyes of the press and the world."

Husam Meqdad, a telecommunications specialist in Gaza, previously told NBC News via Signal earlier this week that some internet providers keep fuel for generators, although supplies are always limited.

According to Meqdad, communication had already been restricted as much of the infrastructure had been destroyed by bombings. Due to the lack of electricity, he had to charge his mobile phone from a neighbor's solar panel.