Editor’s Note: This article is based on information as of Oct. 29, 2023.
Israel cut off all internet and cellular communications from the Gaza Strip on Friday evening local time. Palestinians were no longer able to contact anyone inside or outside of the Gaza Strip, cutting off communication not only with family members but also with emergency services such as ambulances, according to the Associated Press.
Human Rights Watch warned that the blackout risks “providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations.”
“If we all got killed…no one will know,” Palestinian journalist Plestia Alaqad shared in an Instagram post during a brief moment of internet connection.
Members of the press in Gaza now face extremely reduced access to the internet, stifling their ability to share eyewitness accounts and submit reports to news outlets. Some journalists continue to send reports through access to satellite connections based on a report from AXIOS. At least 29 members of the press in Gaza have been killed by Israeli airstrikes since Oct. 7, 24 of which are Palestinians, four Israeli and one Lebanese, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“This night is different than anything Gaza has ever experienced,” Palestinian reporter Waed Al Dahdouh said on Al Quds Radio, a station reporting live from Gaza. Al Dahdouh also said that the bombing increased to an “unprecedented level” after the blackout on Oct. 27.
This comes after Palestinian resistance group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israeli communities, killing 1,400 Israeli settlers on Oct. 7. Hamas captured 229 hostages, including children, elderly and foreigners. As of Oct. 27, Hamas has released four hostages back to Israel and claims Israeli airstrikes have killed almost 50 hostages.
Since Oct. 7, Israel has responded with ongoing airstrikes on the 25-mile long, densely populated Gaza Strip, killing more than 7,000 Palestinians, and injuring over 17,000 with over 3,000 of the killed being children, according to a report released by the Gaza Health Ministry.
Over 50% of the population in Gaza is under 15 years old, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
This crisis did not begin on Oct. 7. During the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Israeli settlers displaced at least 700,000 indigenous Palestinians from the area. Under the sanction of the Israeli government, Israeli settlers have continued to displace Palestinians through massive land seizures, forcing them into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. Earlier this year, Israel approved 7,000 additional settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to the Associated Press.
Since 2006, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip through local elections. Hamas is a political and military group that does not recognize Israel as a state and has been engaged in armed conflict with the Israeli state for several decades. Of the over 7,000 Palestinians killed, an estimated 13 have been Hamas officials, according to statements made by the Israeli Military and Hamas.
In the past three weeks, more than one million Palestinians have lost their homes to Israeli attacks according to the United Nations Press. These airstrikes continue to level multi-story buildings, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians at a time, according to video evidence provided by members of the press in Gaza. These destroyed buildings include residential homes and hospitals, according to the Associated Press.
Israel refuses to cease its bombardment of residential areas and hospitals, as the government claimed in a news conference that Hamas operates in tunnels underneath these areas.
Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza has also emboldened far-right Israeli settlers in the West Bank of Occupied Palestine. Ninety-one Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed since Oct. 7 in a combination of attacks by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and armed Israeli settlers, according to reports from the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank given to the Associated Press.
In a news address on Oct. 25 on i24, an Israeli news channel, the Israeli state Prime Minister and former President of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, informed viewers that Israel is currently preparing a ground invasion of Gaza. He declined to elaborate on the timing or any other details of this operation.
“We have killed thousands of terrorists, and this is only the beginning,” Netanyahu said. This comes after earlier comments by Netanyahu that Gaza and Hamas will pay an “unprecedented price.”
Israel’s shut off of fuel, water and internet service has negatively impacted survival in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Health Ministry announced a “total collapse” of its healthcare systems in hospitals on Oct. 24. As fuel runs lower, only emergency cases can be treated. Doctors in Gaza also report outbreaks of infectious disease due to overcrowding and lack of access to clean water, according to reports by the Gaza Health Ministry
In a comment to CNN, Mark Regev, senior adviser to Netanyahu, claimed that any fuel supplied to Gaza would be used by Hamas to kill Israelis. He also told CNN that no fuel would be allowed into Gaza even if all Israeli hostages were returned.
The United States continues to oppose a ceasefire, and President Joe Biden vowed to stand with Israel “forever.”
President Biden requested $14.3 billion dollars from Congress to aid Israel’s assault on Gaza, an addition to the $3.8 billion Israel receives from the United States annually, according to the Associated Press and the Congressional Research Service. Biden also requested $100 million for humanitarian aid in Gaza, according to a release from The White House.
While over 50 aid trucks have been allowed into Gaza from the Rafah crossing since Oct. 21, United Nations officials estimate that Gazans require over 100 aid trucks per day to sustain their population of 2.1 million, according to Reuters.
During a White House press conference on Oct. 25, President Biden expressed concern for Palestinian civilians killed, but questioned the accuracy of the death toll reported by the Gaza Health Ministry, according to NPR. In the evening of the next day, the Gaza Health Ministry released a list of Palestinians killed since Oct. 7.
The 212-page list includes the names, ages, genders and ID numbers of 6,747 killed Palestinians. The ministry declined to name an additional 281 killed, as their bodies were unable to be identified. This list also does not include people still missing “under the rubble,” those buried without being brought to the hospital and those unable to complete their registration at the hospitals, as stated in the document.
The Gaza Health Ministry lists the cause of these deaths as “Israeli aggression.”
Omar Shakir, the director of Israel and Palestine for Human Rights Watch, said to the New York Times about the contested number of killed Palestinians, “As the debate focuses on death tolls, the bodies continue to pile up. Our focus should be on how to prevent further mass atrocities, instead of debating whether or not the number is exactly accurate or not. We know that Palestinians are being killed in unprecedentedly high numbers, and that needs to end.”