In the midst of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, Dunia faced a heartbreaking delay in learning about her great-aunt’s tragic fate. It took three agonizing days for her to discover the news of her relative’s death. The communication blackout resulted from the Israeli Defence Forces’ decision to expand ground operations on October 27, following a prior attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on southern Israel on October 7.
As the conflict escalated, telecommunications in Gaza were severed, leaving numerous families, including Dunia’s, isolated from information. The disconnection persisted for days, exacerbating the already dire situation for many residents. It wasn’t until locals from the north, evacuating the area, sought out Dunia’s family that they finally learned about the loss of their great-aunt.
The story of Dunia and her family echoes the plight of thousands of Gazans who grapple with delayed and disrupted communication, hindering their ability to promptly learn about the well-being of their loved ones. The ongoing conflict continues to exact a toll on the lives of civilians, exacerbating the challenges they face in an already tumultuous environment.
“Silenced in the Shadows: Gaza’s Ongoing Telecommunications Struggle Amid Conflict”
The recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, which unfolded over eight weeks ago, has left a devastating impact on the region. Israel claims that more than 1,200 people, including several Canadians, were killed, and 240 were taken hostage during Hamas’s attack. However, Palestinian health authorities in Gaza, ruled by Hamas since 2007, suggest a much higher toll, estimating over 15,900 casualties with thousands potentially buried under rubble due to Israel’s response.
The comprehensive siege imposed by Israel on Gaza has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, with severe shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and fuel. The telecommunications blackout in the region, identified by Human Rights Watch, is attributed to Israeli airstrikes and the scarcity of fuel. Paltel, the primary telecommunications company in the area, struggled to maintain reliable services due to damaged infrastructure during the conflict. Although there were initial attempts to restore services on Oct. 29, the situation deteriorated again a week later.
Residents in Gaza now face sporadic internet access, lasting only a few minutes at a time in some areas. Users on the X platform, formerly Twitter, reported complete blackouts. This recent communication breakdown is not an isolated incident but rather emblematic of longstanding challenges faced by Gaza’s residents. A report by the non-profit organization Access Now reveals a pattern of Israeli military actions causing internet disruptions since 2008.
Throughout various conflicts in 2011, 2014, and 2021, the Israeli military targeted civilian internet infrastructure, coupled with disruptions to electricity and fuel supplies. These actions consistently resulted in significant disruptions to internet access and telecommunications, highlighting the enduring struggles faced by Gaza’s population in maintaining consistent communication channels.