April 20, 2024

Gaza Internet Connectivity Decimated by Israeli Bombings

In the middle of a heavy In response to Israel’s air and artillery assault on the Gaza Strip on October 10, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted a message on Facebook to residents of the al-Daraj neighborhood, urging them to leave their homes before the imminent airstrikes.

It’s unclear how most people in al-Daraj were supposed to view the warning: intense fighting and electricity shortages have strangled Palestinian access to the internet, putting besieged civilians at even greater risk.

Following Hamas’ horrific surprise attack across the Gaza border on October 7, the Israeli counterattack – a widespread, indiscriminate bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip – left the two million Palestinians living in the area struggling to get online. to the Internet at a time when access to current information is crucial and potentially lifesaving.

“Shutting down the Internet during an armed conflict puts civilians at risk.”

“Shutting down the Internet in armed conflict puts civilians at risk,” Deborah Brown, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept. “It could help contribute to injury or death because people communicate around safe places and conditions.”

According to companies and research organizations that monitor the global flow of Internet traffic, Internet access in Gaza has declined sharply since the Israeli attacks began, and data service was cut off entirely for some customers.

“My sense is that very few people in Gaza have Internet service,” Doug Madory of the Internet monitoring company Kentik told The Intercept. Madory said he spoke to a contact who works with an Internet service provider, or ISP, in Gaza, who told him that Internet access had been reduced by 80 to 90 percent due to a lack of fuel and power. , and the air attacks.

As for the causes of the outages, Marwa Fatafta, a policy analyst at the digital rights group Access Now, cited Israeli attacks on office buildings housing Gaza telecommunications companies, such as the now demolished Al-Watan Tower, as a important factor, in addition to causing damage to the electrical network.

Fatafta told The Intercept: “There is an almost total information blackout in Gaza.”

Most of Gaza’s ISPs have disappeared

With communications infrastructure reduced to rubble, Gazans increasingly find themselves in a digital vacuum at a time when access to data is most crucial.

“People in Gaza need access to the Internet and telecommunications to check on their families and loved ones, to seek life-saving information amid the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the strip; “It is crucial to document war crimes and human rights abuses committed by Israeli forces at a time when disinformation is running rampant on social media,” Fatafta said.

“There is slight connectivity,” Alp Toker of internet outage monitoring company NetBlocks told The Intercept, but “most of the ISPs based inside Gaza are gone.”

Although it is difficult to be sure whether these outages are due to electricity shortages, Israeli munitions or both, Toker said that, according to reports he received from Gaza internet providers, the root cause is the Israeli destruction of the fiber optic cables connecting Gaza. ISPs are generally aware of where their infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, Toker said, but ongoing Israeli airstrikes will make sending a crew to repair them too dangerous to attempt. Still, a popular Gaza internet provider, Fusion, wrote in a Facebook post to its customers that efforts were underway to repair damaged infrastructure.

The fact that Internet access in Gaza remains in place, Toker said, is likely due to the use of backup generators that could soon run out of fuel in the face of an intensified Israeli military blockade. (Toker also said that, while it is unclear whether it was due to Hamas rocket damage or a manual blackout, NetBlocks detected an outage of Internet service within Israel at the beginning of the attack, but that it quickly subsided.)

Amanda Meng, a Georgia Tech research scientist who works on the university’s Internet Outage Detection and Analysis, or IODA, project, estimated that Internet connectivity in Gaza has fallen by about 55 percent in recent days, which which means that more than half of the networks inside Gaza have been turned off and are no longer responding to the outside Internet. Meng compared this level of access disruption to what was previously seen in Ukraine and Sudan during the recent war in those countries. In Gaza, Border Entry Protocol activity, an obscure system that routes data from computer to computer and underpins the entire Internet, has also been disrupted.

“On the ground, it seems that people cannot use network communication devices that rely on the Internet,” Meng explained.

Organizations like NetBlocks and IODA used different techniques to measure Internet traffic and their results tend to vary. It’s also nearly impossible to tell from the other side of the world whether a sudden drop in service is due to an explosion or something else. However, in addition to methodological differences and the fog of war, there is an additional problem: like almost everything else in Gaza, ISPs connect to the Internet generally through Israeli infrastructure.

“By law, Gaza’s internet connectivity must pass through Israeli infrastructure to connect to the outside world, so there is a possibility that the Israelis will abandon it because they can intercept communications,” Kentik’s Madory said.

Fatafta, the political analyst, also cited Israel’s power to keep Gaza offline, but both in this war and in general. “Israel’s total control over Palestinian telecommunications infrastructure and long-standing ban on technological upgrades” is an immense impediment, he said. With the Internet blocked, he said, “people in Gaza can only access slow and unreliable 2G services,” a cellular standard from 1991.

While Israel is also reported to be using analog means to warn Palestinians, their effectiveness is not always clear: “Palestinian residents of the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern region of the Gaza Strip said on Thursday that Israeli planes dropped pamphlets warning them to evacuate their homes. ” according to the Associated Press. “The area had already been severely affected when the fliers were dropped.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *