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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Gaza communications blackout

Ma'an reported last night:

Telecommunications in Gaza were severed late Tuesday, cutting off Internet, mobile phones and international landline connections for hours, a Ma'an correspondent reported.

Calls to Gaza were met with error messages or dial tones, and the blackout seemed to affect multiple platforms including regular landline services as well as mobile access including Israeli services.

Meanwhile, residents of Gaza near the border with Israel said army bulldozers were seen operating shortly before communications went offline. An army spokeswoman denied the account.
Tweeters were abuzz with the news, and many assumed that this was a deliberate act on Israel's part as preparation for some genocidal act. Ma'an's comments were typical:

yeah people here expecting big israeli assault on Gaza tonight. an from Gaza but can't state how i access in order not be interrupted by occupation(israeli entity)

israel is getting ready to attack,get ready
And on Twitter:
world focused on #londonriots , no one care about #GazaBlackout , have been for 12+ hour, israeli getting ready to attack

IMEMC darkly hinted that this was in preparation for an attack.

Max Blumenthal went further,asserting that this was a deliberate attack by Israel on Gaza:
Does #J14 have anything to say on Israel's terror attack on Gaza's civilian infrastructure? #GazaBlackout
He then realized he went a teeny bit too far:
Qualification: -alleged- terror attack on Gaza's civilian infrastructure. Still awaiting official gloating.
Alas, his deep knowledge of evil Israeli psychology was again off the mark. The IDF spokesperson tweeted this morning:
Contrary 2inaccurate rumors, IDF has no conectn to #GazaBlackout. last nght #IDF bulldozer didn't dig @ Nahal Oz. #transparency
Indeed, there were no bulldozers cutting cables, no massive invasion of Gaza, no airstrikes, and this morning after 12 hours the communications are slowly being restored - without Israel apparently doing anything to repair it. As usual, the Arab and anti-Israel rumor mill was way off base, not that anyone will admit it.

There can be only a few alternatives to explain this:

  • The IDF is lying.
  • There was a huge coincidence where landlines, cell phone lines and Internet all went down at the same time (there were some reports of electricity being shut off as well.)
  • Hamas has something to do with this.
I don't know if there is a single point of failure in Gaza's telecommunications lines; that information is important in determining whether it was a simple backhoe mistake or not. If there is a single point through which all of Gaza's communications flows, that is an astoundingly bad network architecture (although it is great for Israeli intelligence.) This article in Firas Press, if I am understanding it correctly, seems to say that there are three separate fiber-optic cables going into Gaza and that all of them were down.

I find it most interesting that people automatically assume that Israel is nefariously attempting to wage war under cover in Gaza, yet they cannot conceive that Hamas might be doing a dry run on how easily it can cut off Gaza from the world.

After all, Syria has been cutting the communications of towns that are being attacked, and the Arab world has a rich history of working overtime to censor and restrict freedom of expression. 

So how come practically no one is blaming Hamas?