Gaza communications blackout raises concerns over Israeli war crimes

Gaza communications blackout raises concerns over Israeli war crimes

The enclave has been without telephone and internet access for more than 12 hours, amid fears the outage could cover up human rights violations.

Photo: Israeli bombings on Gaza on the night of October 27, 2023 – Source: Eye on Palestine

Gaza remains inaccessible to the outside world after phone and internet services were cut. Aid organizations and media are warning that the communications blackout could serve as a cover for atrocities in the besieged enclave.

On Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza were unable to communicate outside the enclave for the second day, after the heaviest bombardment of the war. Hamas reported limited ground incursions by Israeli forces overnight.

Palestinian telecommunications operator Jawwal said late Friday that Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip had destroyed “all remaining international routes connecting Gaza to the outside world.”

Nida Ibrahim, who works for Al Jazeera from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said on Saturday that information from the Gaza Strip was “very, very minimal.”

“After the Gaza Strip was plunged into darkness, without communications, without telephones, without Internet connections, Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip and elsewhere (…) feel like they are also kept in the dark about what is happening,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

“They cannot check on their friends, loved ones and family members to find out if they are alive or not. »

Amnesty International said it had lost contact with colleagues in Gaza and that the lack of communications was making it increasingly difficult to gather information about human rights abuses.

“This communications blackout means it will be even more difficult to obtain critical information and evidence about human rights violations and war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and to hear directly from those who are suffering these violations,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, senior director of research, advocacy, policy and campaigns, in a statement released Friday.

Deborah Brown, senior technology and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the blackout risks “covering up mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations.”

Cindy McCain, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, said on Twitter, now X, that the WFP had “lost contact” with its teams in Gaza.

“The silence is deafening,” she wrote.

The collapse of communications services in Gaza came as Israel stepped up its bombardment ahead of an expected large-scale ground offensive on the enclave.

Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, told X that the power outage was “preventing ambulances from reaching the injured.”

“We still have no contact with our staff and health facilities. I am worried about their safety,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also warned that the “cutting off of information” could have “serious consequences”, including the dissemination of false information.

Al Jazeera correspondents in the Gaza Strip have been able to provide sporadic updates via satellite, but direct communication is often hampered due to the near-total communications blackout in the enclave.

On Friday, Safwat Kahlout, an Al Jazeera reporter in Gaza, said the latest Israeli air raids had been much more intense than previous attacks.

“Today is the worst day in terms of the power of Israeli fire, and we can hear explosions… coming from the sea, especially in the northern Gaza Strip”said Mr. Kahlout.

Tareq Abu Azzoum, an Al Jazeera journalist in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, said on Friday that residents were “terrified and scared” after finding themselves “totally isolated”.

Israel launched countless air raids on Gaza in response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks inside the country, which Israeli authorities say killed 1,405 people, mostly civilians.

At least 7,326 Palestinians, including more than 3,000 children, were killed in Israeli air attacks, according to Palestinian officials.

Translated by: AFPS