Mobile phone and internet services have collapsed in Gaza under Israel’s intensifying military bombardment and “expanding” ground operations. That leaves more than 2 million Palestinians without reliable communication to the outside world.
Palestinian telecom company Jawwal, which provides mobile phone service in Gaza, said that the Israeli military’s airstrikes and artillery shelling had cut off all communications service as of 27 October, in a public statement. NetBlocks, a nonprofit that tracks internet disruptions, shared network data showing “a collapse in connectivity to the Gaza Strip with high impact to Paltel” – the parent company of Jawwal and “the last remaining major operator to supply service as connectivity declines amid ongoing fighting with Israel”.
⚠ Confirmed: Live network data show a collapse in connectivity in the #Gaza Strip with high impact to Paltel, amid reports of heavy bombardment; the company is the last remaining major operator to supply service as connectivity declines amid ongoing fighting with Israel 📉 pic.twitter.com/nDPf7HnjKF
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) October 27, 2023
This communications collapse follows weeks of disrupted internet and phone service in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes have steadily destroyed the offices and infrastructure of Palestinian telecommunications providers, according to Access Now, a nonprofit focused on digital civil rights. Cloudflare Radar, a service for tracking global internet traffic provided by the US internet company Cloudflare, has shared data tracking the decline.
But people in Gaza now face a nearly complete loss of communications. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, a nonprofit humanitarian organisation that is part of the International Red Cross, described losing all contact with its operations room and teams in Gaza as of Friday “due to the Israeli authorities cutting off all landline, cellular and internet communications”. Similarly, The New York Times said that its reporters “have struggled to reach residents of Gaza by phone”.
The communications blackout comes as more than 2 million Palestinians – nearly half of them children – who remain in Gaza without clear escape routes have struggled to access drinking water, food and medical supplies. The cutoff of electricity in Gaza has also disrupted telecommunications operations while individual Palestinians have resorted to charging their phones using car batteries.
The “information blockade” in Gaza will make it “harder for civilians to stay alive”, said Emerson Brooking at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, a US think tank based in Washington DC, in a 13 October social media post.
Brooking also warned that the loss of video and other communications from Gaza could also lead “the proportion of dis- and misinformation in pro-Palestinian sentiment communities to significantly increase” and obscure any factual information or news reporting that makes it out.
Even before the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinians living in Gaza had to make do with older 2G cellular network service while much of the world moved on to 4G and 5G cellular network services. Israeli authorities have long blocked such advanced mobile phone technology and services in Gaza.
The Israeli military strikes on Gaza began after Hamas militants – the military arm of the Hamas organisation that controls Gaza – launched an unprecedented cross-border attack into Israel on 7 October. The Hamas militants killed more than 1400 people in Israel and kidnapped hundreds of hostages.
Since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza began on 7 October, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported more than 7000 Palestinians killed and several times that number wounded.