It was increasingly difficult to reach people in the Gaza Strip or know what was happening in the enclave late Friday, as Israel said it was stepping up its bombardment and staging another incursion.
On Friday evening, two major Palestinian mobile networks, Jawwal and Paltel, said that their phone and internet services were down. Some Palestinians who have managed to communicate with the outside world said that fear and panic were spreading.
Reached by WhatsApp, Belal Khaled, a Palestinian freelance photographer, described the scene among residents at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, saying, “People are in fear, and they feel they are in limbo. They don’t know what’s happening around them.”
Visuals from inside Gaza on social media channels monitored by The New York Times and some wire services were extremely limited on Friday afternoon. Reuters maintained a live camera directed from the Israeli side of the border toward the Gaza skyline that showed darkness with an occasional burst of light. There were few images available of what was happening on the ground.
“The situation is catastrophic right now,” Tareq Abu Azzoum, an Al Jazeera reporter, said on television, adding that he was reporting by satellite. “We can no longer communicate with the international community to send our voice to the world, to know what is happening on the ground.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group, said it was alarmed by reports of a communications blackout.
“As news bureaus lose contact with their crews and reporters in Gaza, who are independently bearing witness to provide information about developments and the human toll of this war, the world is losing a window into the reality of all sides engaged in this conflict,” it said in a statement.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had lost contact with its headquarters and its teams in Gaza in a post on social media, adding that it was “deeply concerned” about its ability to continue providing emergency medical services and for residents’ ability to call for ambulances.
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also said in a post on social media that it had lost contact with its staff, health facilities and health workers.
“This siege makes me gravely concerned for their safety and the immediate health risks of vulnerable patients,” he said.
Sarah Kerr contributed reporting.