In recent days, growing concerns have emerged regarding the blackouts in Gaza. With telecommunications and internet services crippled, residents of Gaza have found themselves isolated from the rest of the world. The sudden and near-complete loss of communication has raised fears of a possible cover-up, with experts suggesting that the blackout could potentially hide significant atrocities.
A Territory Cut Off
Gaza's communications collapse began abruptly last Friday, following actions by Israel that resulted in a widespread disruption of internet, cellular, and landline services. This has been confirmed by NetBlocks, a respected organization dedicated to monitoring cybersecurity and the broader digital landscape.
Paltel, the primary telecom provider for Palestinians, attributed the "complete disruption" to bombardments. Palestinians, including aid groups, journalists, and various civil society organizations, have reported the loss of contact with their colleagues, friends, and families in Gaza.
This rapid disconnection has effectively rendered a significant part of the Middle East's most densely populated areas incommunicado.
The Potential for Hidden Crimes
As the blackout continues, global apprehensions mount. According to a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch, this "near-total telecoms blackout" in Gaza could be a veil for "mass atrocities".
Senior Technology and Human Rights Researcher Deborah Brown echoed these concerns, stating, "This information blackout risks providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations." Furthermore, there's an emphasis on the urgent need to restore Gaza's communication channels.
The absence of real-time information can lead to the proliferation of "deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation," posing risks far beyond the immediate conflict.
The Cost to Journalists and Health Services
The situation has not only impacted the residents but also posed significant challenges for those covering the developments in Gaza.
To date, 29 journalists have tragically lost their lives since the onset of the conflict that began with the Hamas attack on 7 October. Health services are also feeling the strain. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society announced that they had “completely lost contact with operation rooms due to the Israeli authorities cutting off all landline, cellular and internet communications”.
This disruption severely hampers emergency medical services. More alarmingly, the blackout affects the central emergency number, impeding ambulances from reaching those in dire need. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), expressed deep concerns, saying, “We have lost touch with our staff in Gaza, with health facilities, health workers and the rest of our humanitarian partners on the ground.
This siege makes me gravely concerned for their safety and the immediate health risks of vulnerable patients”. As the situation continues to evolve, the global community remains vigilant, hoping for a swift resolution and the restoration of vital communication links.