ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Phone and internet connections in Gaza briefly go dark again as war rages

Paltel company says services ‘completely cut off’; global monitor group reports ‘total loss of telecommunications by most residents’; services gradually restored hours later

This picture taken near Sderot along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, shows smoke plumes billowing following Israeli strikes amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Yuri Cortez/AFP)
This picture taken near Sderot along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, shows smoke plumes billowing following Israeli strikes amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Yuri Cortez/AFP)

Internet and phone networks were completely down for several hours across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a Palestinian telecommunications provider said, in the second such blackout in the territory in less than a week, as war rages between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

“To our good people in the beloved country, we are sorry to announce that communications and internet services have been completely cut off in Gaza,” the Palestine Telecommunications Company (Paltel) said on X early Wednesday

Global network monitor Netblocks confirmed that Gaza “is in the midst of a new internet blackout with high impact to the last remaining major operator, Paltel.”

“The incident will be experienced as a total loss of telecommunications by most residents,” it said in a post on X.

Attempts to reach Gaza residents by phone were unsuccessful early Wednesday.

An AFP journalist in Gaza confirmed the loss of communications, adding that his phone still had a signal because he was using an international SIM card.

Another AFP journalist said only people with Israeli or Egyptian phone lines could still use their mobiles in the border town of Rafah.

However, after several hours services gradually began to be restored although it was not clear when full capabilities would be reached.

Alp Toker, the director of  Netblocks, said: “Service remains significantly below pre-war levels.”

On Friday, Gazans lost contact with each other and the outside world as communications networks collapsed. The disruption coincided with the launch of a widened Israeli ground offensive, and service was only restored on Sunday, following US pressure.

IDF Southern Command chief, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman (center), is seen in the Gaza Strip, October 30, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hamas had at the time accused Israel of causing the shutdown in order to “perpetrate massacres” in the Gaza Strip. The IDF declined to comment.

Palestinian telecoms provider Jawwal had blamed Israel’s “heavy bombardment” of the territory for the blackout.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday cited a senior US official as saying that Israel had taken measures to shut down the Gaza telecommunication infrastructure but that Washington convinced it to restore services. Israel’s Defense Ministry declined to comment to the newspaper about the report.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities, killing 1,400 people and taking at least 245 hostage. The vast majority of those killed and kidnapped as terrorists seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.

Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties and urging the civilian population to evacuate to southern Gaza. Troops are already operating on the ground in Gaza.

Humanitarian aid agencies have warned that blackouts severely disrupt their work in an already dire situation in Gaza, where more than half of the population of over 2 million Palestinians has been displaced and basic supplies are running low more than three weeks into the war.

The US, while firmly backing Israel’s right to defend itself and the campaign to oust Hamas from control, has pressed Israel over the impact of its offensive on the Gaza civilian population, stressing humanitarian needs.

Gaza has been sealed off since the start of the war, causing shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel. Israel has allowed international aid groups to send more than 200 trucks carrying food and medicine to enter from Egypt over the past 10 days, but aid workers say it’s not nearly enough.

Trucks with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt in Rafah on Oct. 21, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

The Hamas-run health ministry has claimed more than 8,500 people have been killed in the enclave, a figure that cannot be independently verified. Hamas has been accused of artificially inflating the death toll, and it also does not distinguish between civilians and terror operatives. The terror group has pushed back against such claims, releasing an unverified list of names it says represent those killed. Some of the dead are believed to be victims of Palestinian terrorists’ own misfired rockets.

Hamas and other terror groups have continued to rain rockets on Israel, displacing over 200,000 people from their homes.

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