February 28, 2024
Internet access in Gaza is collapsing as ISPs fall offline


As the conflict between Israel and Hamas reaches its third week, internet connectivity in Gaza is getting worse.

On Thursday morning, internet monitoring firm NetBlocks wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the Palestinian internet service provider NetStream “has collapsed days after the operator notified subscribers that service would end due to a severe shortage of fuel supplies.”

Hours later, NetBlocks wrote that its network data showed “a collapse in connectivity in the Gaza strip,” including Paltel, which bills itself as “the leading telecommunication company” in Gaza.

“Today’s incident is the largest single disruption to internet connectivity we have observed in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict. It will be experienced by many as a total or near-total internet blackout,” Isik Mater, director of research at NetBlocks, told TechCrunch.

According to Doug Madory, an expert who for years has worked at various companies that monitor networks across the world, internet connectivity in Gaza is dramatically worsening.

“The evidence of the crippled internet in Gaza is not hard to find. By every metric of internet connectivity, things are in bad shape,” Madory, who is now the director of internet analysis at Kentik, told TechCrunch.

Madory said that he monitored internet connectivity in Gaza during the 2014 war. At the time, despite some outages, “the ISPs were able to keep their connections to the outside world up using backup power, etc., even if many people were unable to access service due to power outages and infrastructure failures.”

NetStream did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to its email, Facebook and WhatsApp accounts. NetStream’s website appeared offline as of Friday.

Earlier on Friday, Mater told TechCrunch that Paltel and Mada Al-Arab — another major regional internet provider — as well as their downstreams and subsidiaries, “still have a degree of connectivity although it’s not clear how much of this is reaching end users.”

Internet security firm Cloudflare also showed issues with NetStream as of the time of writing. Cloudflare head of data insight David Belson pointed to several other ISPs that the company is monitoring, including SpeedClick, AjyalFI, DCC, Fusion, NewStarMAX, JETNET, Digital Communications Palestine and TechHub-HiNet, which are all either largely or completely offline since the first few days of the conflict.

On October 7, Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack against Israelis in their homes, at a music festival and on the streets, killing more than 1,400 people. Since then, the Israeli military has responded with a series of airstrikes that have killed more than 7,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, though U.S. officials have called into question the accuracy of these numbers. As part of its response to the terrorist attack, Israel cut off electricity in Gaza, reportedly reducing the region’s power supply by 90%.

IODA, which is a system that “monitors the Internet infrastructure connectivity in near-real time, with the goal of identifying macroscopic Internet outages,” is monitoring several internet providers in Palestine, including NetStream, and shows widespread outages or at least significant degradation.

The organization wrote on X that connectivity in Gaza further dropped on Friday, “due to a complete outage” of NetStream.

Amanda Meng, a research scientist at Georgia Tech, told TechCrunch that they are seeing “a continued decline” of connectivity in Gaza. Meng described the first decline beginning on October 7 with connectivity dropping to 20%, followed by a second decline early on October 21, dropping to about 15% and below.

IODA was originally developed by the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California San Diego, and is now maintained by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

On Friday afternoon, Palestine Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian NGO in Palestine, wrote on X that it had “completely lost contact with the operations room in Gaza Strip and all our teams operating there due to the Israeli authorities cutting off all landline, cellular and internet communications.”

“We are deeply concerned about the ability of our teams to continue providing their emergency medical services, especially since this disruption affects the central emergency number “101” and hinders the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded and injured,” the PRCS wrote.

Digital rights organization AccessNow has warned that internet outages in Palestine can have serious repercussions on the ground.

“With thousands of people already killed, and currently in a near-complete blackout, access to information has become scarce, directly impacting the capacity to document atrocities perpetrated on the ground,” the organization wrote in a press release updated last week. “People find it nearly impossible to learn the whereabouts of their families and loved ones, and if they’re dead or alive.”

This story has been updated to add information and comments provided by Cloudflare and NetBlocks, and with more from Isik Mater and the Palestinian Red Crescent.





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