Gaza Experiences Communications Blackout Amid Growing Conflict and Potential Egypt Border Deal

Gaza Experiences Communications Blackout Amid Growing Conflict and Potential Egypt Border Deal
People wait at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on on Wednesday. Egypt is preparing to treat wounded Palestinians from Gaza. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

A complete disruption of internet and mobile phone services has struck Gaza, the Palestinian telecoms company Paltel confirmed early Wednesday. This marks the second major blackout in less than a week, with communications going dark previously over the weekend when Israeli troops intensified their push into Gaza.

Early Wednesday reports indicate Israeli airstrikes near Gaza City severely damaged apartment structures, with ensuing ground confrontations between Israeli forces and Hamas militants. The source of the telecommunications blackout is yet unconfirmed, but, an internet-access advocacy group, reported that the current situation in Gaza aligns with the patterns of the previous weekend’s total telecommunications blackout.

Jessica Moussan, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson, voiced concerns over the blackout’s implications, noting, “Even the potentially life-saving act of calling an ambulance becomes impossible.” Humanitarian agencies emphasize that these disruptions hamper their relief efforts in an already critical scenario. With the war now spanning over three weeks, over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are displaced, and essential supplies are dwindling.

Armoured vehicles of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are seen during their ground operations at a location given as Gaza on Wednesday. (Israel Defense Forces/Reuters)

The Gaza Health Ministry released alarming figures on Tuesday, stating that the conflict has claimed over 8,500 Palestinian lives, a significant portion being women and minors. This number is unparalleled in the long history of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. On the Israeli side, casualties exceed 1,400, primarily civilians lost during Hamas’ initial onslaught. The current conflict, the bloodiest in recent memory, was instigated by a severe attack by Hamas on southern Israel on October 7.

Recent airstrikes have had particularly devastating impacts on the civilian populace. On Tuesday, airstrikes targeting senior Hamas military leader, Ibrahim Biari, decimated apartment buildings in a refugee camp near Gaza City. While Israel claims the strikes targeted a Hamas command centre and a network of tunnels, leading to the collapse of the apartment buildings, these accounts cannot be independently verified.

Dr. Atef Al-Kahlot, director of a local hospital, relayed the chaos, suggesting hundreds might be wounded or dead, although exact numbers remain uncertain.

Amidst the escalating conflict, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Sources informed Reuters on Wednesday about a potential agreement, mediated by Qatar and coordinated with the U.S. The deal, involving Egypt, Israel, and Hamas, aims to allow the transfer of foreign passport holders and critically injured individuals out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The timeline for this border’s opening remains uncertain and is not tied to other ongoing negotiations like those concerning hostages held by Hamas or efforts to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

While the international community watches anxiously, the immediate concern remains the safety of Gaza’s civilians and ensuring they receive necessary aid amid a rapidly deteriorating situation.