Gaza experienced communication blackouts on Saturday following Israeli airstrikes and expanded ground operations, the Palestine Telecommunications Company (Paltel) reported. Paltel said that “the heavy bombardment of the last hour has caused the destruction of all remaining international tracks linking Gaza to the outside world.” The internet blackout, resulting in complete loss of communication with Gaza, drew global concern and criticism from human rights groups who believe the communications blackouts create a risk of war crimes and violations against civilians.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi gave an official statement on Saturday that ground operations into Gaza are now taking place, supported by air and sea operations. He said that “the objectives of this war requires a ground invasion.” Israeli officials have declared two objectives: remove Hamas from power and rescue hostages taken on October 7.
Following the expansion in war operations, Gazans suffered extreme loss of internet connectivity and power. In an interview with POLITICO, internet traffic group NetBlocks founder and director Alp Toker said they observed the “single largest disruption to internet connectivity in Gaza” on Friday, and that “the situation for many will be a total or near-total internet blackout at this point.” Toker said that the outages were a result of direct damage from the war operations. POLITICO asked the IDF whether it had intentionally targeted internet infrastructure in its operations; it declined to comment.
Amnesty International said that the communication blackout imposed by the Israeli ground operations poses an “unprecedented risk” to civilians in Gaza. It stated that “human rights organisations have found it increasingly challenging to document violations [of human rights] due to the intensity of Israel’s attacks and restrictions on communications.” It described the attacks made by Israel as “indiscriminate and disproportionate,” and called for an immediate restoration of internet and telecommunications to facilitate rescue operations amidst Israel’s airstrikes and ground operations.
The World Health Organisation said that the blackouts and reports of “bombardment” near hospitals are “gravely concerning,” and reiterated their call for a humanitarian truce. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also urged for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.