Israel Palestine Conflict

Elon Musk says will activate Starlink internet for Gaza aid groups after blackout

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SpaceX owner Elon Musk said the satellite internet technology Starlink would support aid organizations in Gaza amid a near-blackout on communication on Friday following an Israeli attack.

Netizens from around the world, including American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called on Elon Musk to supply Gaza with access to Starlink after the Strip lost internet and communication access late on Friday.

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In a response from Musk to Ocasio-Cortez’s call for establishing a communication network, the billionaire-CEO responded: “Starlink will support connectivity to internationally recognized aid organizations in Gaza.”

Fighting raged in Gaza as Israeli forces expanded their ground operations and cut off the population of over 2 million people from the outside world.

The latest communication blackout is making access to emergency response near impossible and leaving thousands of internationally based family and friends worried for their wellbeing.

Several international organizations, including the World Health Organization, said they were out of touch with their staff. The NGO Human Rights Watch warned of the possibility of mass atrocities.

In response to the blackout, many social media users took to X, formerly known as Twitter, calling on owner Elon Musk to provide Gazans access to the Starlink satellite internet constellation. The hashtag #starlinkforgaza was used in over 3.74 million posts on the social media platform as of Saturday morning.

Musk, who also owns Starlink maker SpaceX, privately shipped truckloads of terminals to Ukraine, which would allow access to the satellite-based internet system. It was relied upon by both military and civilian users after Russia cut Ukraine’s communication system shortly before the 2022 invasion.

On October 17, the Israeli Minister of Communication Shlomo Karhi said the country was in talks with SpaceX to reinforce its internet and communication capability with the Starlink system amid the conflict.

“…under the guidance of the minister, the ministry promotes the purchase of these satellite devices for the benefit of mayors and heads of settlements in the conflict line settlements,” the minister said in a social media statement.

Starlink is not currently available in Israel or in Palestinian territories. On an interactive map on the Starlink website, Israel and Gaza show “starting in 2024,” while Jerusalem and the West Bank areas show “service date is unknown at this time.”

It is not clear whether SpaceX is in talks with Israel to enable such a service, but historically, the company has been known to stay out of acts of war and escalation.

In September, reports said that Elon Musk refused a Ukrainian request to activate his Starlink satellite network in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol in 2022 to aid an attack on Russia’s fleet there.

“The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” Musk said on X. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

From a logistics standpoint, even if SpaceX approves access to Starlink, it is unclear how the terminals can be transported into Gaza since borders are shut except for the infrequent aid transfer through Egypt’s Rafah crossing.

Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla, made its 22 superchargers in Israel free to use, according to an announcement on October 11.

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