Palestinian telecommunications companies Jawwal and Paltel say their network went out of service in the Gaza Strip because fuel deliveries are not being allowed into the besieged territory.
The companies wrote in statements on X on Thursday: “All energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted.” They had warned a day earlier that Gaza was facing a “complete blackout” due to a lack of fuel to operate main data centres and switches.
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The companies said basic network elements have been relying on batteries since Wednesday afternoon.
All fixed, cellular and internet services in Gaza have now been interrupted, leaving its 2.3 million residents largely cut off from the outside world and from each other.
We regret to announce that all telecom services in 𝐆𝐚𝐳𝐚 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐩 have 𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐮𝐭 of service as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and 𝐟𝐮𝐞𝐥 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧.#KeepGazaConnected
— Jawwal (@JawwalPal) November 16, 2023
“Ambulances are now standing outside Nasser Hospital with medical staff waiting to hear of any bombardments, so they can rush to the areas quickly,” Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed reported from Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
“This is not the first time this has happened, and it has caused a great crisis for people trying to reach ambulances or civil defence teams when bombardments occur,” she said, adding that the humanitarian situation in the south was also deteriorating.
“There has been no food, water, fuel or electricity for over a month,” she said.
The blackout comes as Israeli forces are “relentlessly targeting different areas”, including the north, central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, said Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, also reporting from Khan Younis.
“People depend on radios now in order to get the news from the local channels,” Abu Azzoum said, adding that “deliberate attacks” by Israeli forces on telecommunication towers are isolating Palestinians.
Fuel as a ‘weapon of war’
Israel cut off fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip as part of a “complete siege” on the territory after Hamas fighters from Gaza launched an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.
Since the attack, Israel has bombarded the Palestinian territory, launched a ground offensive and severely restricted supplies of water, food and electricity. More than 11,600 people have been killed in the Israeli assault, according to Palestinian authorities, including more than 4,700 children.
This was a sadly predictable consequence of the Israeli government's refusal to all fuel into Gaza to support the generators needed to keep telcom services functioning. Israel also refuses to turn on the electricity. https://t.co/6v0BvboM3j https://t.co/RwSzBrbzBW
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) November 16, 2023
The first fuel truck to enter Gaza since Israel imposed the siege arrived on Wednesday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said it had received 23,000 litres (6,075 gallons) of fuel. However, Israeli authorities have restricted its use exclusively for the transport of aid delivered from Egypt.
“It is appalling that fuel continues to be used as a weapon of war,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.
Since Israel launched a ground invasion in late October, Gaza has experienced two blackouts after Israel cut communications and internet services.
Humanitarian agencies and first responders have warned that blackouts severely disrupt their work and put lives at risk.
“People will be deprived of access to lifesaving information, such as finding areas of safety or contacting emergency services,” said Rasha Abdul-Rahim, director of Amnesty Tech.
“The critical work of humanitarian agencies will also be severely disrupted as workers lose contact with each other,” she added.
“Prolonged and complete communications blackouts, like those experienced in Gaza, can provide cover for atrocities and breed impunity while further undermining humanitarian efforts and putting lives at risk,” said Deborah Brown, senior technology researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Communications networks in Gaza have been unreliable since the war began due to a lack of electricity and damage to infrastructure caused by the Israeli bombardment.
The Palestinian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has previously appealed to neighbouring Egypt to operate communication stations near the Gaza border and activate roaming services on Egyptian networks.
Ismail Thawabta, the director general of the government media office in Gaza, warned the blackout could allow Israel to hide any evidence of its “war crimes”.
That’s because Israeli military actions against hospitals and other sites in the enclave will be “hidden from the eyes of international organisations” and countries around the world, Thawabta said at a news conference.
“This will deepen the humanitarian crisis. No one will be able to have contact with medical teams, with the civil defence, with the municipalities and all institutions in Gaza,” Thawabta said.