On Friday, October 27, Israel severed Gaza’s phone and internet services, “destroy[ing] all remaining international routes connecting Gaza to the outside world.” Simultaneously, Israel expanded its ground operations and airstrikes against Gaza in what the country’s defense minister described as a "new phase" of the war.
Daily Sabah described the blackout, which coincided with intensified Israeli operations, writing that “Gaza had been under a near-total communications blackout… following intensified Israeli air attacks on Friday that Palestinian telecoms providers said knocked out communications lines and towers.”
The communications blackout made “calls to loved ones, ambulances, or colleagues elsewhere all but impossible,” according to Al-Arabiya. Beyond inhibiting this personal correspondence, the communications blackout “meant a previously constant flow of information, images, and videos from inside the strip had reduced to a trickle, making it difficult to understand the extent and impact of the latest strikes.”
Human rights groups raised concerns over the severing of phone and internet services. Al-Ahram explained: “A number of international agencies and NGOs said they had lost touch with their staff in Gaza on Friday, including the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA” and NGO Amnesty International. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned that “the lack of information coming out of the Strip ‘can be filled with deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation.’"
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a statement describing Israeli operations in Gaza during the communications blackout. Haaretz quoted Gallant: "We attacked above the ground and underground, we attacked terror operatives of all ranks, everywhere… The operation will continue until a new order.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the weekend’s ground operations specifically. Netanyahu “said ground forces entered the ‘gates of Gaza,’ in the ‘second stage of the war’ to destroy Hamas's military and governing capabilities, and bring the captives back home,” per Anadolu Agency.
On Saturday, Elon Musk proposed that internationally recognized aid organizations could utilize his Starlink Satellite internet service. Al Jazeera shared the response of Israel’s communication minister Shlomo Karhi: “HAMAS will use it for terrorist activities… Perhaps Musk would be willing to condition it with the release of our abducted babies, sons, daughters, elderly people. All of them! By then, my office will cut any ties with starlink.”
The Palestinian telecommunications company, Jawwal, reported “the gradual return of fixed, mobile, and internet services in Gaza” on Sunday. Egypt Independent covered: “The company explained that despite the severity of the situation, its technical teams are continuously working to repair as much of the damage to the network as possible within the available resources.”
The Times of Israel highlighted the United States role in the return of communications to Gaza. Noting that Israel “did not give a reason for shutting off communications,” a U.S. official shared: “We made it clear that it had to be turned back on… They need to stay back on.”
(Image: Al Jazeera English)