UNICEF Calls For Urgent Ceasefire In Gaza As Struggles Rise In Shutdown

During a recent visit to war-torn Gaza, UNICEF chief Catherine Russell decried the "devastating" scenes witnessed and urged conflicting parties to put an end to the ongoing horror.

Oshi Saxena
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UN Women

(Image Credits - UN Women)

During the ongoing conflict that has gripped the world's attention, Gaza, a tiny enclave of land and home to 2.3 million  souls, found itself in the midst of a digital darkness, cut off from the rest of the world. This blackout was not a natural disaster but a consequence of human conflict, and it sent shockwaves through the global community. 


A recent visit to war-torn Gaza, UNICEF chief Catherine Russell decried the "devastating" scenes witnessed and urged conflicting parties to put an end to the ongoing horror.

Gaza finds itself under siege, isolated from the global community, as the internet and communication channels have been ruthlessly severed by Israel's relentless bombardment. This digital isolation is a dire situation that transcends the realms of humanitarian concern, affecting Palestinians, aid organizations, journalists, and civil society groups.

The Global Impact

At the epicentre of this crisis lies a siege that has been ongoing for weeks. Israel's Defense Forces have imposed an unforgiving stranglehold on the Gaza Strip, resulting in catastrophic consequences. A significant portion of electricity has been cut off, and the fuel needed to power generators has run dry. However, the ultimate blow came in the form of a loss of connectivity.

NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that meticulously monitors cybersecurity and internet activity, was the first to report the grim news. On a fateful Friday evening, connectivity in Gaza collapsed. This was the moment when Gazans, their families, and the world realised the gravity of the situation. The Palestinian telecom provider, Paltel, described the bombardment as causing a "complete disruption" of internet, cellular, and landline services.


Isolation and Desperation

The Gaza blackout, a direct result of the military operations, has plunged its residents into a state of complete isolation. Imagine a city shrouded in darkness, punctuated only by the eerie glow of continuous airstrikes. Explosions light up the night sky, yet the lack of communication means the world cannot immediately know the extent of the casualties or the details of ground incursions.

This communication crisis reaches beyond personal connections; it impacts the world's understanding of the situation. The Committee to Protect Journalists has sounded the alarm, warning that the world is "losing a window into the reality" of the conflict. This information void could be filled with deadly propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation.

Journalists Caught in the Crossfire

Israeli authorities informed international news organisations Reuters and Agence France Presse (AFP) that they cannot guarantee the safety of their journalists operating in Gaza. The IDF's reasoning is that Hamas deliberately places military operations in proximity to journalists and civilians, making it difficult to avoid collateral damage.


Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stated, "communications blackout is a news blackout," which would lead to "serious consequences," including the spread of misinformation.

"At this dark hour, we stand with journalists, with those truth seekers whose daily work keeps us informed with facts that shed light on the human condition and help to hold power to account," said the CPJ.

Oxfam also said it was "deeply concerned" over the loss of communications in Gaza and demanded an immediate ceasefire.


Escalating Tensions and International Response

This unfolding crisis occurs against the backdrop of Israel's decision to expand its military campaign against Hamas. The resulting escalation has led to intensified ground operations and missile exchanges between the two sides.

Expanding Military Campaign: A Serious Escalation

Israel's decision to expand its military campaign against Hamas underscores the severity of the situation. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly emphasises the safety of British nationals in Gaza as the top priority. The UK supports Israel's right to self-defense while advocating for the protection of Palestinian civilians.

#starlinkforgaza Trends: A Ray of Hope

Amidst the near-total communications blackout in Gaza, a global call for SpaceX to provide Starlink internet to the region gains momentum. The hope is that this could alleviate the severe communication disruptions, offering a lifeline to a desperate population.

Internet Provider Collapse: Adding to the Crisis

NetStream, a primary internet provider in Gaza, has ceased its services due to a critical shortage of fuel supplies. This exacerbates the communication crisis, deepening the isolation of Gaza's residents.

Deteriorating Network Connectivity: A Grim Turn of Events

Network data shows that network connectivity in Palestine began deteriorating on October 7, coinciding with the outbreak of hostilities between Hamas and Israel. This deterioration has only exacerbated the communication crisis.

A Medical and Humanitarian Catastrophe: The Impact Beyond Words

The loss of communication is more than a mere inconvenience; it's a devastating blow to Gaza's already fragile medical and aid systems. Gaza was already on the brink of collapse under Israel's relentless three-week siege.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator's Warning

Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Palestine, emphasised the gravity of the situation. Without phone lines and the internet, hospitals and aid operations would be incapacitated. She rightly points out that "wars have rules, and civilians must be protected."

Relief Agencies in the Dark

Relief agencies and human rights organizations, including Unicef, UN Women, the ICRC, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Amnesty International, all found themselves in the same grim situation. They lost all contact with their staff on the ground, a harrowing reality given the intensifying conflict.

Palestinian Red Crescent Society's Concerns

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that they had "completely lost contact with operation rooms" due to Israeli authorities cutting off all landline, cellular, and internet communications. This had dire consequences, hindering the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded and injured.

Rights Groups Speak Out

Rights groups, including  Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have expressed concerns and slammed the communications blackout in Gaza. They warn that this near-total telecommunications blackout risks providing cover for "mass atrocities" and contributing to impunity for human rights violations.

Israel's Escalation and Preparedness: A Complex Scenario

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have significantly increased their airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in recent hours, and they have received authorisation for a ground operation in the region.

Amid this escalation, Israel is alleging that a Hamas terror base is hidden beneath Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa Hospital. The IDF has released images and accompanying graphics, claiming an extensive command post exists under the hospital. This situation underscores the complexity of the conflict and the challenges faced by both sides.

UNICEF Chief Urges Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

During a recent visit to the war-torn Gaza Strip, UNICEF chief Catherine Russell highlighted the lack of safe spaces for the region's one million children, calling on the conflicting parties to put an end to the ongoing horror.

Russell, expressing dismay over the devastating scenes witnessed, emphasized the urgent need for action to stop the repeated bombardments, loss, and displacement, "What I saw and heard was devastating. They have endured repeated bombardment, loss and displacement. Inside the Strip, there is nowhere safe for Gaza's one million children to turn,"

 The plea comes as tensions escalate in the Israel-Hamas conflict, affecting the lives of many, including internally displaced Palestinian children seeking refuge in UNRWA-run shelters.

The International Response: Concerns from Across the Globe

Even international organizations were not spared from the blackout's impact.

WHO Director-General's Concern

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), expressed his deep concern. He pointed out that the siege makes him gravely concerned for the safety of health workers, patients, and humanitarian partners in Gaza.

Amnesty International's Struggle

Erika Guevara-Rosas, senior director of research, advocacy, policy, and campaigns at Amnesty International, highlighted the gravity of the communications blackout. It hindered their ability to obtain critical information and evidence about human rights violations and war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

The world watches with bated breath as Gaza remains in the shadows of silence, hoping for a resolution that brings light to a place that has been cast into darkness.

Suggested reading: Israel-Palestine Conflict: Understanding History Of The Gaza Strip

United Nations Gaza israel-palestine Israel Hamas Conflict ceasefire