For more than three weeks, Gaza has faced an almost total internet blackout. The cables, cell towers, and infrastructure needed to keep people online have been damaged or destroyed as Israel launched thousands of missiles in response to Hamas attacking Israel and taking hundreds of hostages on October 7. Then, this evening, amid reports of heavy bombing in Gaza, some of the last remaining connectivity disappeared.
In the days after October 7, people living in Gaza have been unable to communicate with family or friends, leaving them unsure whether loved ones are alive. Finding reliable news about events has become harder. Rescue workers have not been able to connect to mobile networks, hampering recovery efforts. And information flowing out of Gaza, showing the conditions on the ground, has been stymied.
As the Israel Defense Forces said it was expanding its ground operations in Gaza this evening, internet connectivity fell further. Paltel, the main Palestinian communications company, has been able to keep some of its services online during Israel’s military response to Hamas’ attack. However, at around 7:30 pm local time today, internet monitoring firm NetBlocks confirmed a “collapse” in connectivity in the Gaza Strip, mostly impacting remaining Paltel services.
“We regret to announce a complete interruption of all communications and internet services within the Gaza Strip,” Paltel posted in a post on its Facebook page. The company claimed that bombing had “caused the destruction of all remaining international routes.” An identical post was made on the Facebook page of Jawwal, the region’s biggest mobile provider, which is owned by Paltel. Separately, Palestinian Red Crescent, a humanitarian organization, said on X (formerly Twitter) that it had lost contact with its operation room in Gaza and is “deeply concerned” about its ability to keep caring for people, with landline, cell, and internet connections being inaccessible.
“This is a terrifying development,” Marwa Fatafta, a policy manager focusing on the Middle East and North Africa at the digital rights group Access Now, tells WIRED. “Taking Gaza completely off the grid while launching an unprecedented bombardment campaign only means something atrocious is about to happen.”
A WIRED review of internet analysis data, social media posts, and Palestinian internet and telecom company statements shows how connectivity in the Gaza Strip drastically plummeted after October 7 and how some buildings linked to internet firms have been damaged in attacks. Photos and videos show sites that house various internet and telecom firms have been damaged, while reports from official organizations, including the United Nations, describe the impact of people being offline.
Around the world, the internet and telecoms networks that typically give web users access to international video calls, online banking, and endless social media are a complicated, sprawling mix of hardware and software. Networks of networks, combining data centers, servers, switches, and reams of cables, communicate with each other and send data globally. Local internet access is provided by a mix of companies with no clear public documentation of their infrastructure, making it difficult to monitor the overall status of the system as a whole. In Gaza, experts say, internet connectivity is heavily reliant on Israeli infrastructure to connect to the outside world.
Amid Israel’s intense bombing of Gaza, physical systems powering the internet have been destroyed. On October 10, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which oversees emergency responses, said air strikes “targeted several telecommunication installations” and had destroyed two of the three main lines of communications going into Gaza.