Gaza has been plunged into a near communication blackout for two days — at least the fifth such mass outage of phone and internet lines during the 10-week war — leaving more than two million Palestinians virtually cut off from the outside world and one another as Israel’s offensive continues.
This is the longest such outage so far in the war. Previous blackouts have been caused either by Israeli attacks on telecommunication towers, Israeli control of the enclave’s communication lines or a shortage of fuel, according to Gazan authorities and communication companies.
On Thursday evening, Paltel, the main Palestinian telecommunications company, said on social media that “all telecom services in Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing aggression. Gaza is blacked out again.”
Some cellular towers and underground fiber cables had been destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes, said Abdulmajeed Melhem, the Paltel group’s chief executive.
The Israeli military said it would not comment in response to questions about whether its strikes had caused the latest blackout.
Even before Thursday’s complete outage across the enclave, northern Gaza had been experiencing cellular blackouts for about 10 days, he said.
Israel’s war in Gaza, launched after Gaza’s Hamas rulers attacked Israel on Oct. 7, has caused widespread devastation to the cellular infrastructure across Gaza, including in Gaza City and elsewhere in northern Gaza, Mr. Melhem said.
Because of the intensity of the fighting between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian groups including Hamas, technical teams have been unable to reach key data centers across the enclave, leaving the scope of the damage to the network unclear, Mr. Melhem said.
Paltel’s technicians were trying to reach the main data center in southern Gaza on Saturday, he said. If successful, some phone and internet service could return to the south, he said.
In November, all telecommunication services went out of service “as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in,” Paltel said at the time.
Gaza has been suffering from a severe fuel shortage affecting not only communications, but also emergency services and hospitals as a result of Israel’s complete siege of the territory. Israel cut off most fuel, food, water and medicines to the territory soon after the Oct. 7 attack.
The frequent communication blackouts amid the war — which has killed nearly 20,000 Gazans, according to Gazan officials — have raised concerns among Palestinians on the ground and rights groups abroad that a lack of phone and internet service has made it more difficult to document human rights violations, the ongoing killing of civilians and the widespread destruction.
The United Nations said the latest blackout was the fifth in the enclave since Oct. 7, when the war began.