Rights organization objects to Gaza blackouts as ‘weapons of war’

A digital civil rights organization, Access Now, has stated that a week-long telecommunications blackout in the Gaza Strip has become a “matter of life and death” and must end immediately; it is the longest continuous outage since the start of Israel’s conflict.

“In the midst of unprecedented violence and unfathomable human suffering, it is inexcusable to play with connectivity,” said Marwa Fatafta, the organization’s policy and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement released on Thursday.

“Internet shutdowns should never be employed as strategic weapons.” Access Now maintains its appeal for a complete restoration of telecommunications services in the Gaza Strip and an immediate cessation of both digital and physical hostilities.

On January 12, Paltel, a Palestinian internet service provider, declared that all telecommunications services in Gaza had been severed “as a result of the ongoing aggression.” The data from Cloudflare Radar confirmed a significant decline in traffic.

On Thursday, NetBlocks, an organization that monitors internet governance and cybersecurity, reported that the incident had exceeded 144 hours. It was stated on the social media platform X, “The disruption is the ninth and longest sustained telecoms outage since the onset of the current conflict with Israel.”

Impact of Internet Blackouts

Internet outages have impeded the distribution of humanitarian assistance to the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza, of which 85 percent are internally displaced. Additionally, the disruptions have significantly complicated the documentation and dissemination of information regarding the situation on the ground.

Multiple disruptions and shutdowns have affected internet traffic in the Gaza Strip since the conflict began on October 7. Heavy Israeli bombardments have impeded the ability of repair personnel to reach damaged areas, requiring them to at times assume grave personal dangers to restore connections.

According to Access Now, the widespread blackouts in Gaza were caused by technical disruptions to telecommunications services, restrictions on access to electricity, and direct assaults on civilian telecommunications infrastructure.

The outages have transpired amid an ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which, according to Palestinian authorities, has claimed the lives of a minimum of 24,620 individuals and injured 61,830 others.

According to information obtained by Access Now, a structure housing infrastructure and offices for Paltel and Jawwal, two of the primary telecommunications providers in the Gaza Strip, was devastated on October 9 by air strikes conducted by Israeli forces.

An additional structure that accommodates media offices and functions as a central centre for internet service providers, Al-Watan Tower, has also experienced aerial bombardment from Israel.

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