Updates on the Israel-Gaza War: For the last six days, Gaza has been suffering a telecom blackout.
- The outage was caused by the Israeli military activity.
- Repairs appear to be impossible, fatal even.
- Aid cannot go into the region while blind.
On January 17th, NetBlocks reported that the besieged Gaza Strip has been experiencing a near-total telecommunications blackout for five days. Today marks the 6th.
NetBlocks is an independent and non-partisan global internet monitor that maps and measures internet freedom in real-time across the globe. On January 17th, they reported that Gaza is currently suffering the longest telecom outage on record since the war picked up again on October 7th, 2023. This is the 9th blackout.
The outage occurred mere hours after Israel finished defending its actions at the International Court of Justice against allegations of mass genocide in Gaza.
According to Samer Feris, director of a Palestinian Mobile Provider Ooredoo, who spoke with NPR, the Israeli military activities severed underground fiber optics. Cellphone towers were also extensively damaged in the bombing. “We have more than 550 towers inside Gaza. Most of them were partially or completely damaged,” said Mamoon Fares, director of corporate support for the Palestinian Telecommunications Co. (Paltel).
Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli Ministry of Communications oversees telecommunications in the region. Nothing goes without its permission and approval. Even during calmer times, the Ministry only allowed 3G services in the West Bank and 2G in Gaza while it used the latest telecommunications has to offer, 5G.
During the humanitarian ceasefire back in November, the company made some repairs. However, now, it is close to impossible. Last week, two workers who went out to make repairs were killed when the Israeli forces shot at their car, despite obtaining permission through the appropriate channels.
Israel maintains that their deaths were an accident.
As a result, Gazan citizens cannot stay in touch with one another or those outside the border. They cannot call for emergency aid. They cannot warn each other of incoming danger or areas to avoid.
The dispute has been ongoing for the better half of a century, now. The citizens would go through periods of calm and then be pushed into chaos. However, this time around, thanks to the internet and social media, the word rallied around Palestine. Now, more than ever, the world is watching, and the videos circulating are shifting public opinions. The blackout stops such information from reaching the rest of the world.
But the ramifications are not limited to the civilians amongst themselves. The lack of communication has hindered aid coming into the region. The aid efforts need telecommunications to be able to deliver assistance. During the blackout in November, aid trucks were unable to enter the region from Egypt for 2 days, straight.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, which provides emergency medical aid and ambulance services, lost contact with its people in Gaza.
The United Nations (UN) said on Wednesday that the outage “prevents people in Gaza from accessing lifesaving information or calling for first responders and impedes other forms of humanitarian response.” Do you know how serious something must be for the UN to wake up and say something?
For the first time in human history (probably), the world is witnessing what humanity has to offer as it happens. Not through biased history textbooks. Not through glorified stories of war passed down from one traumatized generation to a clueless and impressionable one.
However, now, and for the last 6 days, there have been barely any witnesses. And as time goes on, as the blackout persists, as the aids remain out of reach, as the press dies, and citizens follow suit, there won’t be any witnesses left.
When communications are restored, will we find a Gaza?
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