The Gaza Strip was plunged into another communications blackout on Friday, with internet and phone service cut off for most of its more than two million residents as Israeli bombardment continued.
“All telecom services in Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing aggression,” the major Palestinian telecommunications company, Paltel, announced late Friday afternoon. Another mobile network, Ooredoo Palestine, said damage to communications lines had shut down all of its services in the southern and central parts of the territory, which Israeli forces have recently made a focus of their operations. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to the reports.
The blackout was confirmed by NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, which said the internet outage was “near-total” and that landline, cellular and wireless internet service was likely unavailable to most residents in Gaza.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, which provides emergency medical aid and ambulance services, said it had completely lost contact with its teams in Gaza and that the blackout had exacerbated the difficulty of reaching injured people promptly.
This is the ninth blackout Gaza has faced since the war began, and their durations have varied from roughly nine hours to as many as 72 hours, according to Isik Mater, Netblocks’ director of research.
The latest blackout began just hours after Israel finished defending itself at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against accusations that it was committing genocide in Gaza. The case was brought by South Africa, whose 84-page filing to the court cites the blackouts as one way Israel has been “hampering scrutiny” of its actions in the territory.
Israel jammed Gaza’s internet and telecoms networks just before its ground invasion in late October, according to senior U.S. officials, preventing Palestinians there from sharing what they were seeing with each other or with the outside world for nearly 36 hours.
Other blackouts have been caused by Israel’s attacks on infrastructure, its control of Gaza’s communication lines and its refusal to allow sufficient fuel to enter the territory, Palestinian telecommunications companies have said.
The blackouts have terrorized besieged Palestinians in Gaza, leaving them unable to confirm whether their loved ones were still alive or call for help as Israeli airstrikes continued. During the blackout in October, rescue crews tried to save people by driving toward the sound of explosions or trying to surmise where an airstrike landed by sight. During another blackout in November, UNRWA, the largest United Nations agency in Gaza, said it was unable to distribute aid coming from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.