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Musk says Starlink ready to provide internet connectivity to support Gaza aid organisations

On Saturday Elon Musk asserted that SpaceX’s Starlink will support communication links in Gaza with “internationally recognized aid organizations”, inviting instant ire of Israel’s communication minister. Minister asserted that Israel would fight the move.

Musk said in an X post that it was unclear who has authority for ground links in Gaza, but “no terminal has requested a connection in that area”. A telephone and internet blackout due to heavy bombardment by Israel isolated people in the Gaza Strip from the world and even from each other on Saturday, with calls to ambulances, loved ones or colleagues elsewhere all but impossible. Point to be noted here is that two days after internet and cellular service abruptly vanished for most of Gaza possibly due to severe Israeli bombardment, the congested enclave got back its internet and phone connectivity on Sunday as communications systems were gradually repaired throughout the day.

International humanitarian organizations were lamenting that the blackout, which started late on Friday, was further worsening an already desperate situation by hampering life-saving operations and preventing contact with their staff on the ground. In such a scenario Musk made the offer that to support Gaza aid organisations SpaceX could deploy its Starlink to provide internet connectivity. SpaceX did not immediately reply to Reuters’ request for comment on how it would ensure Starlink connection was used by only by targeted aid organizations and not by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s communication minister Shlomo Karhi was quick to respond to Musk’s X post and said Israel “will use all means at its disposal to fight this.” “HAMAS will use it for terrorist activities,” Karhi wrote. “Perhaps Musk would be willing to condition it with the release of our abducted babies, sons, daughters, elderly people. All of them! By then, my office will cut any ties with starlink.”

Subsequent to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Starlink satellites were reported to have been critical to maintaining internet connectivity in some regions despite attempted Russian jamming. Since then, Musk has informed he declined to extend coverage over Russian-occupied Crimea, refusing to let his satellites to be used for Ukrainian attacks on Russian forces there.

Conclusion

After restoration of internet and phone services in Gaza on Sunday international humanitarian organizations may have heaved a sigh of relief. Elon Musk’s Saturday offer has become more or less futile now.

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