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27 Okt 2023

Joseph Gedeon and Maggie Miller, Politico

Palestine: Reports of total internet blackout as besieged Gaza Strip suffers intensified bombardment

"Internet blackout in Gaza as Israel expands operations"

The Gaza Strip lost all connection to the internet on Friday due to Israeli airstrikes in the area, according to Palestinian authorities and at least one internet traffic group.

The blackout will make it even harder for those in Gaza to communicate with the outside world and comes as Israel expanded its bombardment of the strip on Friday...

Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel wrote on X that “the heavy bombardment of the last hour has caused the destruction of all remaining international tracks linking Gaza to the outside world,” according to a translation of the post. Internet tracking organization NetBlocks said Paltel was the last major telecom group operating in the Gaza Strip.

A Paltel employee, speaking anonymously as the person was not authorized to talk to the media, told POLITICO on Friday that repairs were unlikely due to ongoing bombardment and a lack of equipment and supplies. Moreover, he said the company's workers in Gaza were sheltering and struggling to stay in contact.

The shutdown could be a precursor to the widely-anticipated ground invasion of Gaza, where residents have already suffered large losses from air strikes and targeted raids. Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters Friday that ground troops were “expanding their activity” in Gaza...

NetBlocks and internet traffic group Cloudflare were among the organizations to track a sharp decline in connectivity in Gaza on Friday. David Belson, Cloudflare's head of data insight, said in an email that the company had seen “traffic declines across several of the Gaza Strip governorates,” and had tracked the complete drop-off in traffic of almost a dozen major internet service providers in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks.

Alp Toker, founder and director of NetBlocks, said Friday that his company had tracked “the single largest disruption to internet connectivity in Gaza today,” warning that the “situation for many will be a total or near-total internet blackout at this point.”

“Today’s outages are due to the bombardment, direct damage,” Toker said. “We have confirmation from the operator now that this was kinetic impact, and the terms are consistent with a sudden outage.”...

Critical infrastructure has been a major target of attacks during the Israel-Hamas conflict. An Israeli airstrike destroyed Gaza’s only power plant in 2014, and Israeli airstrikes in recent weeks have targeted at least 7,000 structures in Gaza. Paltel has struggled to provide service in recent years, shutting down phone and internet service to Gaza in 2017 in the middle of an electric power crisis. Hamas reportedly took down at least four Israeli communications towers on the border of Gaza as part of the Oct. 7 attack.

News service Al Jazeera told POLITICO they are still able to broadcast and communicate from Gaza using satellite connections.