Gaza has entered its 7th straight day without internet and mobile services, the longest continuous outage since last October according to web monitoring groups, as Israeli airstrikes on the region continue. With electricity also severely disrupted, the lack of communications has raised alarm from human rights groups that it is cutting off vital services and endangering lives.
Timeline of the Communications Blackout
The latest blackout began on January 12th after Israeli airstrikes targeted the local telecoms infrastructure run by Paltel group. Mobile internet was unavailable across the whole of Gaza for over 24 hours before 2G services were restored at a very minimal level. Another round of strikes on January 15th brought down all services once again across the strip.
|Initial strikes bring down internet and mobile networks across Gaza
|Basic 2G cellular service returns but at very low capacity
|All telecom services cut off again after new attacks
|Some landline and 3G services restored but blackouts continue
Efforts by telecoms engineers to repair the infrastructure have been hindered by continued bombing campaigns and the difficulty getting spare parts through border restrictions. Two telecoms workers were also killed by an Israeli missile strike while trying to restore internet connections, Paltel group has reported.
This latest incident comes after Gaza faced internet shutdowns multiple times throughout 2022 and 2023 amidst flaring tensions between Palestinian militant groups based in the territory and Israeli forces. Last October saw a 5 day blackout when Israeli air raids destroyed parts of the network, which human rights groups warned was endangering civilians cut off from emergency services.
Vital Infrastructure Targeted
The targeting of vital telecommunications links has far reaching consequences for Gazans dependent on connectivity for daily life and business, as well as accessing crucial services.
Mobile phones and the internet are used for everything from accessing healthcare, education and banking to paying bills and running businesses. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned blackouts risk disrupting such critical operations including coordination of aid groups in the territory.
Gaza’s 2 million residents had already been contending with chronic electricity shortages that restrict power to around 8 hours per day on average. With bombings also hitting electrical infrastructure and cutting supply lines from Israel, blackouts have worsened to as long as 16 hours daily during the latest crisis.
Combined with the loss of communications, humanitarian groups have warned Gazan civilians are being denied access to basic necessities. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said the lack of power and connectivity is greatly hindering their ability to provide assistance including:
- Operation of essential water and sanitation services
- Provision of healthcare and medical supplies
- Coordination of food and relief distribution
- Transportation access restrictions
Calls to Restore Connectivity
The shutdown has drawn increasing criticism from digital rights organizations and humanitarian groups:
“Cutting access to essential internet and phone services endangers civilian lives and violates human rights” said Access Now in a statement. They called on authorities to immediately restore Gaza’s digital connections.
Human Rights Watch said the systematic destruction of Gazan telecoms infrastructure could constitute war crimes under international law. They echoed calls for Israel to end strikes on vital civilian infrastructure.
Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that communications play a vital role in the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and humanitarian operations:
“Damage to communications infrastructure in Gaza should not be used as a pressure tactic to achieve political ends. The effective protection of human rights in Gaza requires immediate restoration of access to the internet” said the UN Human Rights office.
No Clear End as Conflict Continues
As clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas show no signs of ceasing after a week of violence, the people of Gaza look set to face further hardship from the ongoing digital siege. Israel claims strikes only target infrastructure used for military purposes by militant groups, but much of Gaza’s telecoms networks are intertwined with civilian usage.
Unless the attacks are halted, essential connectivity could remain intermittent for an unknown period. Web monitoring groups have warned the limited 2G service currently available is failing to meet even basic civilian needs.
With the parties to the conflict showing entrenched positions and trading blame for initiating hostilities, pressure is likely to grow on the international community to intervene more forcefully. But previous efforts by outside powers to broker ceasefires between Hamas and Israel have ultimately provided only temporary relief.
Many analysts thus believe Gaza’s residents should be prepared for the harsh realities of conflict, isolation and shortage to persist unless there is lasting political change. Nevertheless, human rights advocates stress that civilian infrastructure and services must never be treated as collateral damage in disputes between warring factions.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.