Doctors work in Indonesian Hospital in Gaza after a blackout

Doctors work in Indonesian Hospital in Gaza after a blackout, as hospitals continue surgery and treatment services with primitive methods due to a fuel shortage amidst Israel's bombardments on November 10, 2023.

(Photo: Fadi Alwhidi/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Gaza Telecom Networks Face 'Complete Halt' as Another Blackout Nears

Blackouts have "severely affected the delivery of vital services to what remains of the crumbling medical facilities treating thousands of ailing victims of the unrelenting assault on Gaza," said one advocate.

In a matter of hours, Amnesty International said Wednesday, Gaza is expected to "plunge into another total communications blackout" unless Israel lifts the total blockade that has kept fuel from reaching the besieged enclave for more than a month.

Two major telecommunications firms announced that their data servers have begun shutting down due to the rapidly dwindling energy supply—affecting operations at hospitals where medical workers are already struggling to care for thousands of injured people and preventing civilians from seeking help.

"Israel's ongoing refusal to deliver sufficient fuel and restore power will bring Gaza's communications network to a complete halt," said Rasha Abdul-Rahim, program director at Amnesty Tech. "It has also severely affected the delivery of vital services to what remains of the crumbling medical facilities treating thousands of ailing victims of the unrelenting assault on Gaza and has hampered the rescue of injured people trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings. This will be further exacerbated by the collapse of communications services, which in itself could amount to a violation of international law."

On Wednesday, Israel allowed the first fuel truck to enter Gaza since its bombardment began on October 7, but Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the 23,000 liters trucked into the enclave are just a fraction of what is needed at hospitals, communications centers, water treatment plants, and humanitarian facilities.

"It is appalling that fuel continues to be used as a weapon of war," Lazzarini told Al Jazeera, noting that 160,000 liters of fuel are needed daily just to run the U.N.'s refugee shelters, where 800,000 people have sought safety. "This seriously paralyzes our work and the delivery of assistance to the Palestinian communities in Gaza."

Since October 11, said Amnesty, Gaza has had communications connectivity of about 30% below pre-conflict levels. The enclave has faced three total blackouts that lasted 24-48 hours, leaving residents without access to rescue services or the ability to make sure their loved ones were alive and well.

The blackouts, said the group, have also prevented international and local reporters and groups from documenting human rights violations.

During one 48-hour blackout from October 27-29, Israel bombed the areas surrounding al-Shifa, al-Quds, and Indonesian hospitals, killing at least 302 people, according to Gaza health officials.

"Against the backdrop of devastating airstrikes on critical civilian infrastructure and dwindling fuel reserves, civilians in Gaza cannot afford another blackout, which risks becoming a protracted period of no communication, darkness, and invisibility," said Abdul-Rahim. "Israel must immediately lift its blockade on Gaza and allow the entry and distribution of fuel and lifesaving aid for civilians. Israel is subjecting the civilian population to collective punishment, which is unlawful and cannot be justified, while cutting them off from each other and rest of the world as it does so."

Amnesty International reiterated its demand for an immediate cease-fire and the restoration of all telecommunications infrastructure to ensure injured people can seek help and humanitarian organizations can keep their operations running.

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