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Internet blackouts keep hitting Gaza. Here’s what to know.

The Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million residents were cut off from internet, cellphone and landline telephone networks over the weekend — the third time this has happened since Israel declared war on Hamas on Oct. 7 and began its subsequent military campaign in the enclave.

The resulting communications blackout effectively sealed off the enclave’s residents from the outside world and from one another, preventing information from getting in or out and plunging its residents into digital darkness. Inside the Strip, aid groups said Palestinians were unable to contact emergency services amid heavy strikes.

Here’s what to know about Gaza’s communications blackouts.

What is a communications blackout?

According to the main Palestinian telecom provider, Paltel, Gaza residents experienced a complete disruption to their internet and communications services that lasted several hours starting Sunday evening. Internet monitoring groups also detected a major disruption to the enclave’s connectivity.

“We tracked observable internet connectivity decline significantly and instantaneously,” said Alp Toker, the director of cybersecurity monitoring group NetBlocks, in a telephone interview Monday. The group, which monitors internet connectivity by tracking what proportion of endpoint users can be reached online and return a signal, observed internet connectivity drop off precipitously across Gaza at 6:20 p.m. local time on Sunday. “Fixed line and also domestic cellular connectivity, including calls, have been completely knocked out by this,” he said.

During the blackout, the only way to reach the outside world was with an expensive satellite phone, via a satellite dish, or potentially using a SIM card issued by a foreign mobile phone providers, capable of picking up signal from across the border with either Israel or Egypt, Toker said. It likely left most Gazans unable to communicate with the outside world.

On top of a gradual deterioration in internet connectivity levels since the war began, NetBlocks has tracked “three collective communications blackouts, manifesting in the near total disconnection from the outside world,” Toker said. These occurred Oct. 27, Nov. 1 and Nov. 5.

After the disruptions, which each lasted several hours, internet connectivity levels abruptly returned across the strip to pre-disruption levels. According to Toker, this points to some form of technical disruption as a potential cause — rather than damage from military strikes, which can take days if not weeks to repair.

“Gaza is highly reliant on Israeli upstream providers,” Toker said, giving Israeli authorities the technical capability to turn off internet access to the enclave if they wanted to. “If we are to rely purely on technical data, I think we can say we see hallmarks of an upstream disruption, but there is still a big grounds for questioning,” he said.

U.S. officials in statements have directly linked the blackouts to Israeli efforts and described their efforts to reverse it.

What is life like in Gaza under a communications blackout?

Without telephone signal or access to the internet, the blackouts have plunged Gazans into digital darkness. Amid heavy military bombardment, they have made it near impossible for residents to contact family members or access up-to-date information and have hindered the efforts of emergency services to respond to casualties.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which said it lost contact with its own team in Gaza during the communications blackout, Gazans were unable to access emergency medical services on Sunday evening. During a previous blackout, the World Health Organization said ambulance crews had no way of reaching the wounded after a night of strikes.

No text, no talk. Palestinians plunged into digital darkness in Gaza.

In a statement shared on X on Sunday evening, officials at the UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said they were not able reach “the vast majority” of their own staff in Gaza. “This is the third communications blackout over the past 10 days. Gazans are completely cut off from their loved ones and the rest of the world,” the post read.

The blackouts are aggravating panic and distress among Gaza’s civilian population, according to UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini. “My colleagues in Gaza are warning against a breakdown in civil order — we saw the beginning of this when scores of people broke into U.N. warehouses on the day of a full communication blackout,” he said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.

The blackouts prevent Palestinians from accessing up-to-date news about the conflict and limit the ability of journalists in Gaza to report on what is happening. In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that news bureaus losing contact with their crews and reporters in Gaza meant the world was losing a crucial window into the reality of war and creating an information vacuum.

“A communications blackout is a news blackout. This can lead to serious consequences with an independent, factual information vacuum that can be filled with deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation,” the CPJ statement read.

What is causing Gaza’s poor connectivity levels?

Internet connectivity levels in Gaza were already low before Sunday’s blackout — ranging from between 30 to 40 percent of their prewar levels, according to NetBlocks. “We’ve tracked the gradual decline of connectivity, which has corresponded to a few different factors: power cuts, airstrikes, as well as some amount of connectivity decline due to population movement,” Toker said.

Much of the gradual degradation to internet connectivity levels since Oct. 7 can be explained by specific examples of damage sustained by communications infrastructure, he said. Within days of the war beginning, for example, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said that airstrikes had destroyed two of the three main lines Gazans depended on for mobile communication. According to a subsequent update on Nov. 1, OCHA said that almost half of Gaza’s local fiber network — comprising the street poles, cables and fiber trenches that connect internet infrastructure to end users — had been damaged since the beginning of the war.

What does Israel say about the communications blackouts?

When asked on Monday by The Washington Post to respond to claims that Israel had intentionally cut off internet to the Gaza Strip as part of its military strategy, a spokesperson for the IDF refused to comment.

In separate messages posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, Israel’s minister of communications, Shlomo Karhi, argued that Hamas militants would benefit from any attempt to connect the Gaza Strip to the internet. Responding to a vow from Elon Musk to support certain aid groups operating in Gaza with internet connectivity via Starlink, Karhi tweeted: “HAMAS will use it for terrorist activities. There is no doubt about it, we know it, and musk knows it.”

After a previous blackout in October, a senior U.S. official told The Washington Post that Israel was responsible for cutting off communications in Gaza. The Israelis did not tell their U.S. counterparts why they had switched off communications, the official said. “We made it clear they had to be turned back on,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.

In a briefing on Nov. 2, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there are cases in war when both sides try to limit each other’s ability to communicate.

“But in this particular case, we felt that such a blackout was hampering specifically, hampering the ability to get humanitarian assistance in and hampering the ability of humanitarian agencies to communicate with their people on the ground,” he said.

Claire Parker, Miriam Berger and Niha Masih contributed to this report.


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