Internet Disruptions in Gaza Spark Conversations on Modern Warfare
Technological warfare discourse has been ignited as Gaza faces large-scale internet blackouts, prompting consideration of its implications for modern conflict.
The Palestinian Telecommunication Communications Group (Paltel Group) announced that all communication and internet services in the Gaza Strip will end by Thursday due to dwindling fuel supplies. Internet Connectivity in the Gaza Strip has been hovering in a state of near-blackout for over a month.
Palestinian communication officials told reporters blackouts will affect communication between the Civil Defense and Red Crescent crews and their centers, according to the Wall Street Journal. This highlights the potential challenge of pointing these crews to specific areas in need, resulting in the risk of numerous casualties and further hardship faced by the people of Gaza.
The Paltel group claimed the fault of internet blackouts is in the hands of Israel. However, this has not been confirmed. The Palestinian Ministry described this internet tampering as a “clear violation of international humanitarian law.” Humanitarian aid organizations have cautioned that these blackouts significantly push back their efforts in an already dire situation in Gaza. With a multitude of the 2.3 million Palestinian population displaced and essential supplies running scarce, the challenges are exacerbated.
Internet and Communication Blackouts throughout Gaza
On the evening of October 27th, Israeli military forces allegedly implemented an internet drought, which severed online accessibility for approximately 34 hours as its troops entered the Gaza Strip. Phone, cellular, and internet services experienced an outage, which left Gaza’s majority of 2 million Palestinians unable to communicate with each other or the outside world.
It has not been conclusively confirmed that Israel is at fault for the blackouts; however, internet discrepancies have contributed to extreme levels of fear and uncertainty.
According to the Internet Outage Detection and Analysis project, Gaza experienced its latest total internet blackout on Sunday, November 5th, for a 15-hour span. The overall internet traffic was down by 80% for the entire month of October, concurrent with Israeli military forces’ response to attacks by Hamas militants on October 7th.
A comprehensive report by AccessNow found 15 out of 19 service providers in Gaza to be encountering a loss of their mobile and broadband services, while the remaining four were subject to substantial levels of disruption. This has continued to affect the millions of individuals that remain in Gaza, with repair likely to begin after the war concludes.
The Paltel Group posted a statement to X on Friday, October 27th, and described the internet blackouts as “bombardment” from Israel.
“Paltel Group regrets to announce that all telecommunication services, including landline, mobile, and internet, have been lost in the Gaza Strip. This was due to the continuous intensive bombardment that caused cutting off all remaining fiber routes that connect Gaza to the rest of the world. Gaza is currently blacked out”. (@Paltelco via X)
The Palestinian Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology accused Israel of “systematic targeting” of networks and urged countries to “put pressure on the Israeli government” to restore connections via social media pages.
The Alarming Use of Internet Shutdowns in Warfare
The utilization of internet blackouts as a means of war defense has soared in recent years. A report from AccessNow in 2022 found government officials and other perpetrators responsible for 187 internet disruptions across 35 countries. India implemented 84 internet blackouts, the most of any other country within the study. The age of internet shutdowns has only increased since the 2020 global pandemic.
The study found the usage of internet shutdowns as a sort of authoritarian control, “Whether in the midst of unrest, conflict, or annual school examinations, governments, militaries, and police forces resorted to keeping people in the dark as a desperate form of control” (Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022).