Over two million people in the Gaza Strip face complete isolation from the world, with internet and power access shrinking as Israel continues to retaliate against Hamas atrocities.
Internet access is hanging on by a thread after most of Gaza’s telecommunication infrastructure was damaged or wiped out in Israeli airstrikes. The bombing campaign earlier this week destroyed two of the three main lines for mobile communication, leaving just one line working, but with disrupted service. Overall, connectivity in the Gaza Strip has fallen from about 95% in early October to around 58% as of Monday morning, according to data from NetBlocks, an internet outage monitoring firm based in London.
The lone provider standing between Palestinians and a total blackout is Paltel, the Palestine Telecommunications Company. While all nine of Gaza’s local internet service providers have effectively stopped working, Paltel is the largest Palestinian provider, with connections in the Gaza Strip and throughout the region. While currently enough of its cable network that supports fixed broadband and phone services remains intact, the company said it anticipates a “total blackout” if any more of its lines to Egypt or Israel are damaged.
Internet connectivity in Gaza’s Deir al Balah governorate has been most deeply impacted, according to NetBlocks. Overall connectivity in the region is currently at 38.9%. The area has suffered damage in several locations, including the Nuseirat refugee camp struck by Israeli airstrikes on Wednesday morning. Many of Gaza’s most vulnerable residents live in Deir al Balah: It’s home to four of Gaza’s eight refugee camps, providing shelter for at least 191,000 refugees, according to an estimate from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Palestinian internet providers can only offer 2G network services, which is much more sluggish than 3G and also more vulnerable to security attacks due to weak encryption. A previous UN report indicated some Gaza residents living near the Israeli border could access 3G and 4G networks from Israeli operators, although the current situation is unclear.
Many may not even be able to power up a cell phone or computer. Gaza’s only power station stopped running since Wednesday afternoon after running out of fuel reserves. The electricity blackout in Gaza followed the Israeli government’s order of a complete blockade on the enclave as Hamas has taken hostages, which has led to the suspension of power supply from 10 Israeli lines that previously contributed to almost two-thirds of Gaza’s electricity this year.
Residents as well as hospitals have resorted to using generators for electricity, but the blockade has effectively cut off the supply routes for essential commodities, including fuel, leaving these generators on the brink of depletion with no means of refueling.
With falling internet connectivity and power supply, the crisis in Gaza is deepening and on the brink of leaving millions cut off from the rest of the world.