Gaza continues to be unreachable to the outside world after the cutting of phone and internet services, as humanitarian and media organisations warn the communications blackout could provide cover for atrocities in the besieged enclave.
Palestinians in Gaza were unable to communicate with people outside the enclave for a second day on Saturday after some of the heaviest bombing of the war and reports by Hamas of limited ground incursions by Israeli forces overnight.
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Palestinian telecoms provider Jawwal said late on Friday that Israel’s bombardment of the Strip had destroyed “all remaining international routes connecting Gaza to the outside world”.
Nida Ibrahim, reporting for Al Jazeera from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said on Saturday that there was “very, very minimal” information coming out of the Gaza Strip.
“After Gaza went into darkness with no communications, no phones, no internet connections, Palestinians here outside of Gaza and elsewhere … feel that they are also being kept in the dark about what’s going on,” Ibrahim said.
“They can’t check on their friends, on their loved ones [and] family members to check if they’re alive or not.”
Amnesty International said it had lost contact with its colleagues in Gaza and the lack of communications was making it increasingly challenging to document rights abuses.
“This communications blackout means that it will be even more difficult to obtain critical information and evidence about human rights violations and war crimes being committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and to hear directly from those experiencing the violations,” Erika Guevara Rosas, senior director of research, advocacy, policy and campaigns, said in a statement on Friday.
Deborah Brown, the senior technology and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the blackout risked “providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations”.
Cindy McCain, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, said on Twitter, now X, that the WFP has “lost contact” with its Gaza teams.
“The silence is deafening,” she wrote.
We have lost contact with our teams in #Gaza.
The silence is deafening.
As conflict rages on, I am extremely worried for the safety of all humanitarian workers and civilians.
We are at a tipping point. Humanity must prevail.
— Cindy McCain (@WFPChief) October 28, 2023
The collapse of communications services in Gaza came as Israel ramped up its bombardment before an expected full-scale ground offensive on the enclave.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, posted on X that the blackout is “making it impossible for ambulances to reach the injured”.
“We are still out of touch with our staff and health facilities. I’m worried about their safety,” he said.
Reports of intense bombardment in Gaza are extremely distressing.
Evacuation of patients is not possible under such circumstances, nor to find safe shelter.
The blackout is also making it impossible for ambulances to reach the injured.
We are still out of touch with our staff…
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) October 28, 2023
The Committee to Protect Journalists also warned that the “news blackout” could lead to “serious consequences”, including the spread of misinformation.
The cutoff means that casualty figures from attacks and details of ground fighting could not immediately be fully known. Only some satellite phones continued to function.
Al Jazeera correspondents in the Gaza Strip have been able to provide sporadic updates via satellite but direct communication is often hampered due to the near-total communications blackout in the enclave.
On Friday, Al Jazeera’s Safwat Kahlout, reporting from Gaza City, said the latest Israeli air raids had been far greater in intensity compared with previous attacks.
“Today is the worst in terms of the strength of the Israeli fire, and we can hear some explosions … coming from the sea as well, specifically in the north of the Gaza Strip,” Kahlout said.
Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from Khan Younis in Gaza, said on Friday that residents were “terrified and afraid” after being left “totally isolated”.
Israel has launched countless air raids on Gaza in response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks inside the country, which Israeli officials say killed 1,405 people, mostly civilians.
At least 7703 Palestinians, including 3595 children, have been killed in Israeli air attacks, according to Palestinian officials.