The Gaza Strip was in a communications blackout on Thursday, leaving most of the more than two million people in the enclave cut off from the outside world amid an escalating Israeli ground operation and relentless bombardment.
Two major Palestinian mobile networks, Jawwal and Paltel, said that “all telecom services” in the besieged strip were out of service “as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in.”
The networks had repeatedly warned this week that dwindling supplies would halt their services amid a severe fuel shortage across the strip that has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. UNRWA, the largest United Nations agency in Gaza, which has been distributing aid coming in from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, said it would not be able to deliver assistance on Friday because of the blackout.
Israel has been preventing fuel from entering Gaza, saying Hamas uses it for rocket attacks and has stockpiled fuel intended for civilians, and has cut off electricity there since it began its bombing campaign after Hamas’s surprise attacks on Oct. 7.
Communications appeared to go down in the late afternoon on Thursday. In some cases, phones rang unanswered. Other times, callers heard a recorded message: “Contact with the beloved Gaza Strip was lost as a result of the ongoing aggression. May God protect Gaza and its people.”
This message is familiar to those who had tried to reach people in Gaza late last month when communications were severed on three occasions for periods ranging between 12 to 48 hours after strikes damaged phone lines. U.S. officials also said Israel had switched off Gaza’s phone networks and caused some of the outages earlier in the war.
Last month’s outages made it difficult for emergency and rescue crews to locate and evacuate those killed and wounded in strikes and sent panic and fear across the territory.
“Israel’s ongoing refusal to deliver sufficient fuel and restore power will bring Gaza’s communications network to a complete halt,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that “civilians in Gaza cannot afford another blackout.”
Even before fuel ran out and strikes damaged lines, reaching people in the strip has been difficult since the start of Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign. Gaza has been facing connectivity below 30 percent of normal levels since the first week of the war, according to data by IODA and NetBlocks, which track internet access worldwide.