Starlink Internet for Gaza was a hot topic on the internet. On Friday, Gaza experienced a near-total communications blackout, sparking a campaign on social media platforms, social media users calling on billionaire tycoon Elon Musk to power the bombarded enclave with Starlink internet.
Starlink is a satellite internet venture operated by SpaceX and is comprised of a “constellation of thousands of satellites” that orbit very close to Earth at about 550km (340 miles) from the surface, making it easier to provide internet services in rural and isolated regions of the world where the internet terminals and cables aren’t strong.
SpaceX CEO Musk initially responded to a post calling for Starlink support for Gaza, saying that it wasn’t clear who had authority for ground links in the besieged enclave and that “no terminals from Gaza have attempted to communicate with our constellation”.
After the calls for Musk to support communication in Gaza through Starlink gained momentum, the billionaire businessman announced that “Starlink will support connectivity to internationally recognized aid organizations in Gaza.”
On Saturday, Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi lashed out at Musk on the social media platform X for considering the provision of Starlink to aid organizations in Gaza. Karhi said Israel will cut off any ties with Starlink.
“HAMAS will use it for terrorist activities. There is no doubt about it, we know it, and Musk knows it,” Karhi said.
Musk responded by saying that his company is “not so naive” and would do “a security check with both the US and Israeli governments before turning on even a single terminal”.
We are not so naive.
Per my post, no Starlink terminal has attempted to connect from Gaza.
If one does, we will take extraordinary measures to confirm that it is used *only* for purely humanitarian reasons.
Moreover, we will do a security check with both the US and Israeli…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2023
Has Starlink Been Used in War before?
This isn’t the first time Musk has been asked to provide Starlink internet services in warzones.
In February 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Musk instantly ensured Starlink terminals would be made available to help people and the army in Ukraine after internet services were disrupted due to the war.
But a year into the conflict, concerns over Starlink aiding Russia’s military have been raised.
In September, Musk faced criticism from leaders in Ukraine for refusing to have Starlink services in Russian-annexed Crimea.
On the social media platform X, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also claimed that Starlink allowed Russian drones to hit Ukrainian cities.
“Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake. By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities,” Podolyak said on X.
Musk replied by saying he had no choice but to reject an emergency request from Ukraine “to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol” – a response that has been praised by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, despite issues over its use in Crimea, Starlink is still in use on all other fronts in Ukraine.
What are the other means of communication is available in Gaza?
After a communications blackout that lasted for almost 36 hours, the Paltel Group, which provides communications services in Gaza, said that telecommunication services are “gradually being restored” in the Gaza Strip.
But with Musk’s Starlink proposal for Gaza only seeking to cater to international aid organizations, efforts continue across the globe to ensure that ordinary civilians in Gaza are able to continue communicating with each other in case telecommunication services are disrupted again.
Starlink Internet for Gaza revives Russo-Ukraine Starlink involvement
Mr Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, was widely praised for providing Ukraine with Starlink to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
However, his role in the conflict came under scrutiny after the publication of his biography by Walter Isaacson, who described how Mr. Musk refused to let Kyiv’s forces use Starlink for a naval drone strike on Russian ships in Crimea; Mr. Musk allegedly feared this could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow.
After that incident, Mr Musk tweeted peace proposals involving Russia keeping Crimea and Ukraine adopting neutral status, a proposal that was denounced by Kyiv as repeating President Vladimir Putin’s talking points.
Mr Musk also triggered widespread anger on Israeli social media with a post on X that appeared to sympathize with Iran. The post features a map of Iran surrounded by US flags with the words: “Iran wants war. Look how close they put their country to our military bases.”
Mr Musk’s caption included the words: “Oh the Irany.”
Oh the Irany … pic.twitter.com/a1x9hFgJ0Y
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2023
The post came shortly after US fighter jets launched air strikes on two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in retaliation for a series of drone and missile attacks on US bases and personnel in the region.
The world now awaits to see how both US and Israeli governments will react to this.