EXCLUSIVE: All Gaza telecom network to shut off in one week due to lack of fuel, Paltel CEO

EXCLUSIVE: All Gaza telecom network to shut off in one week due to lack of fuel, Paltel CEO
All cellphone service and data in Gaza will shut off in a week unless an Israeli blockade on the entry of fuel into the enclave is lifted, the CEO of Paltel has told The New Arab.
3 min read
05 November, 2023
Gaza's telcommunications network has been completely reliant on fuel-powered generators for the last thirty days, but fuel reserves are about to run out [Getty]

All telecommunications in Gaza, including cellphone service and data, will shut off in in a week due to a lack of fuel, the CEO of the Palestine Telecommunications Company (Paltel) told The New Arab on Sunday.

"If no fuel enters Gaza, all of the telecommunications networks will shut off," Paltel CEO Abdul Majeed Melhem said, explaining that electricity generators have just a week of fuel reserves left.

A telecommunications blackout would both cut Gaza’s communication with the outside world, as well as suspend phone and internet services within the enclave itself.

Israel has carried out a brutal aerial and ground assault in Gaza since 7 October which has killed almost 10,000 people, including more than 4,000 children. 

Israel has cut electricity to Gaza and prevented any fuel imports into the territoryclaiming Hamas could divert fuel supplies away from civilian use. Humanitarians have pleaded for fuel imports needed to keep hospitals, shelters and telecommunication technology running to be allowed into Gaza.

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Israeli bombardment of the densely populated enclave began after the group launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking 240 hostage.

Telecommunications have been badly affected since the Israeli attack on Gaza started, with a complete network blackout imposed on the Gaza Strip twice by the Israelis.

Israel cut off electricity to Gaza on the first day of its assault, forcing telecommunications companies to rely entirely on fuel-powered generators and solar panels.

However, fuel reserves have nearly run out, Melhem explained, and solar panels have been taken out of service by Israeli bombings and debris.

Israeli bombing has damaged telecommunication infrastructure and has made mobility for Paltel staff challenging, preventing them from refueling generators and repairing damage.

Humanitarians and Gazan hospitals have said that cellphone networks are vital to their work, particularly in coordinating the rescue of Gazans wounded or trapped under rubble after Israeli airstrikes.

Journalists also rely on network connectivity to transmit the reality of conditions of the ground in Gaza to the rest of the world. 

Egypt has said it could supply some coverage from across its border with Gaza, but has yet to follow through on its offer, with discussions with the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Communications ongoing. 

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Other residents of Gaza have bought e-sims through non-Palestinian carriers to circumvent communication blackouts — but these too will cease working if generators run out of fuel. 

Besides the scores wounded by Israeli bombing, Palestinians in Gaza are struggling to survive as Israel continues to prevent food, medicine and other aid into the territory.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire, temporary or otherwise, unless all hostages taken by Hamas were released.

A group of UN experts called for a ceasefire on Thursday, saying that the "Palestinian people are at a grave risk of genocide."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the number of children killed in Gaza by Sunday was "almost 5,000", based on a reported death toll of 4,800. The number of children killed was 4,008, the Gaza health ministry later said; the article has been updated to reflect this.