Israel Threatens SpaceX Ties Over Starlink Access to Gaza
In a surprising turn of events, Elon Musk seems to be reconsidering the provision of Starlink access to Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip, especially in the midst of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Just a month ago, Musk had taken to Twitter, expressing the possibility of supplying satellite internet connectivity to humanitarian aid groups operating in Gaza.
This tweet, however, triggered a swift and stern response from Israel’s Minister of Communications, Shlomo Karhi, who threatened to sever ties with SpaceX. The primary concern was the potential misuse of Starlink units by Hamas, the militant group in control of the Gaza Strip.
Israel Claims Agreement on Starlink Access Following Musk’s Visit
Fast forward to Monday, and Minister Karhi announced that a deal had been struck regarding Starlink access. The announcement coincided with footage of Elon Musk touring Israel alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Karhi, “Starlink satellite units can only be operated in Israel with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Communications, including the Gaza Strip.”
Karhi further emphasized the importance of this agreement in the context of Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas. In a tweet, he stated, “As the State of Israel fights against Hamas – ISIS, this understanding is vital, as is it for everyone who desires a better world, free of evil and free of antisemitism, for our children’s sake.”
As of now, Elon Musk has not publicly responded to this development. However, during an online chat with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Musk expressed a willingness to contribute to the efforts in Israel. Musk joined the prime minister in touring areas where Israeli civilians had been targeted during an attack by Hamas on October 7, the event that triggered the current conflict.
Potential for Starlink Connectivity in Gaza Post-War
While the recent agreement opens the door for potential Starlink access in Israel, including the Gaza Strip, it appears that this may only materialize after the conflict’s conclusion. Elon Musk, aligning with Netanyahu’s goals, emphasized the importance of simultaneously addressing security concerns and providing assistance to those affected by the conflict.
The current state of internet access in Gaza remains precarious. On November 17, broadband access experienced a significant outage, lasting over 24 hours. NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, attributed this disruption to the depletion of generator fuel and backups supplying network infrastructure in the region. Despite the partial restoration of services, the group noted that internet access remained well below the levels observed before the conflict began.
As the conflict persists, the fate of Starlink connectivity in the Gaza Strip hangs in the balance. While a positive step, the agreement between Israel and SpaceX leaves many questions unanswered about the timing and conditions for implementing Starlink access in the region. In the meantime, the people of Gaza continue to grapple with an unstable internet environment amid the ongoing hostilities.