Gaza, 17 December 2023– The fifth and longest communication blackout across the Gaza Strip since 7 October means the limited aid that has been permitted into Gaza cannot be distributed to more than a million people in need beyond the Gaza-Egypt border area of Rafah, says Save the Children. 

According to telecommunications companies, the blackout resulted from damage to critical infrastructure. Communications are slowly resuming in central and southern Gaza following repairs. However, four days without working phone networks and internet left aid agencies like Save the Children unable to coordinate the delivery of assistance beyond the Rafah crossing into Gaza, or to secure the safety assurances from Israeli forces needed for aid supplies and staff to move throughout the Gaza Strip. The blackouts make it near impossible to coordinate with partners and contact staff to help them find relative safety, critical assistance and services.  

The UN also reported reduced visibility on the humanitarian situation due to the blackout. Rafah currently hosts up to 600,000 people displaced by airstrikes, ground operations and Israeli military directives issued from 5 December. The road from Rafah to Khan Younis – a nearby area currently hosting nearly 100,000 people previously directed there by earlier Israeli orders – remains an active zone for Israeli military operations.  

Without safety assurances, attempts at aid delivery would risk the lives of humanitarian personnel. More than 135 aid workers have already been killed in Gaza since 7 October, including Save the Children staff member Sameh Ewaida who was killed in an Israeli airstrike earlier this month. The UN declared the first month of operations the most dangerous period for its staff in history.  

“Since the siege on the 10 October, there have been heavy restrictions on the amount and types of aid allowed into Gaza. This has left aid agencies without the on-the-ground conditions needed for an effective and principled humanitarian response to the more than two million people in desperate need across the Gaza Strip,” says Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee.  

“The communication blackout restricts those options even further, leaving well over a million people completely cut off from lifesaving assistance. Our ability to do our jobs and to save lives is being prevented at every turn.

“We desperately need a ceasefire and safe, unfettered access throughout all of the Gaza Strip for lifesaving supplies and staff, including consistent and reliable communications. Without it, the lives of the over one million children hang in the balance.” 

Save the Children is calling on the international community to secure an immediate and definitive ceasefire and for the Government of Israel to reverse the conditions that have made a meaningful humanitarian response almost impossible, including unfettered humanitarian access to all of Gaza, and the restoration of the commercial sector entry into Gaza. Starvation and the denial of humanitarian assistance must never be used as a method of warfare.