Security

Internet access in Gaza partially restored after blackout

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An antenna of a communications tower that relays phone and internet signals is pictured in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 28 , 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Internet access and the phone network were completely cut across the Gaza Strip on October 28, nearly three weeks after Israel began bombarding the enclave following an armed attack by Hamas militants that Israeli officials say killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Credits: MOHAMMED ABED / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images

After a weekend of almost complete internet blackout, connectivity in Gaza has been partially restored.

On Friday, internet monitoring firms and experts reported that access to the internet had significantly degraded in the Palestinian enclave. The local internet service NetStream “collapsed,” according to NetBlocks, a firm that tracks internet access across the world. At the same time, IODA, another internet monitoring system, showed outages and degradation across several Palestinian internet providers.

The lack of internet communications caused emergency lines to stop ringing and made it hard for paramedics to locate the wounded and for family members to reach relatives and friends, according to The New York Times.

On Sunday, IODA reported “marginal restoration” of internet connectivity in Gaza. Abdulmajeed Melhem, CEO of the Palestinian main telecommunications company Paltel Group, told The Times that the internet had come back even though the company had not made any repairs.

Then on Monday, Gaza had roughly the same access to internet connectivity as before Friday, according to several experts and firms that are monitoring the internet in the region, including Doug Madory, an expert who for years has focused on monitoring networks across the world.

“There was the 34 hour complete blackout from Friday to Sunday — a first for Gaza. Then there was last night’s partial outage in northern Gaza,” Madory, who is the director of internet analysis at Kentik, told TechCrunch on Monday. “The situation is still very precious: no power, little water. Service could potentially drop out again at any time.”

Sources on the ground appeared to confirm the improvements. Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent humanitarian organization, told TechCrunch that her colleagues in Gaza are now “able to connect to the internet” after the “complete cut off during Friday and Saturday.”

But, Farsakh added, the situation is still challenging.

“We are still facing difficulties reaching out to them. I need to call them 10 times to get to one,” Farsakh said.

David Belson, the head of data insight at cloud hosting and security company Cloudflare, told TechCrunch that the company saw connectivity to Gaza restored Sunday morning local time and “it has remained available since that time, with requested traffic volume at or above pre-shutdown levels.”

Cloudflare also shared several graphs showing internet traffic picking back up on Sunday.

Image Credits: Cloudflare
Image Credits: Cloudflare
Image Credits: Cloudflare

It’s unclear what caused the internet outages in Gaza on Friday and what caused the improvements on Sunday and Monday. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the U.S. government put pressure on the Israeli government to switch the internet back on in Gaza, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

“We made it clear they had to be turned back on,” the official said. “The communications are back on. They need to stay on,” The Post quoted the official as saying.

Also on Sunday, The Times reported that the U.S. government believed that the Israeli government was responsible for the near-blackout of the internet in Gaza.

In response to a series of questions from TechCrunch about what happened to the networks in Gaza over the weekend, and whether the blackout was part of the Israeli military operations, an unnamed spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declined to comment.

The internet issues in Gaza came as the IDF expanded ground operations in Gaza, in addition to continued air strikes. The operations come in response to the terrorist attacks by the militant organization Hamas, which resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Israelis. As of Sunday, the Associated Press reported that Israeli forces have killed around 8,000 Palestinians, citing the Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas.

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