New Delhi: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced that his Starlink satellite internet service will provide connectivity to Gaza for “internationally recognized aid organizations”, amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian enclave. However, his offer has drawn criticism from Israel, which claims that Hamas could use the service for “terrorist activities”.
Musk made the announcement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday, without specifying which aid groups would benefit from his initiative. He said that Starlink would support communication links in Gaza, where a telephone and internet blackout has isolated millions of people as Israel intensified its air and ground assault.
Starlink is a constellation of thousands of satellites that orbit the planet at about 550km, providing high-speed, low-latency internet to users all over the world. The service has been used in areas affected by conflicts or natural disasters, such as Afghanistan and Haiti. However, it also requires ground stations and user terminals to operate, which could pose regulatory and security challenges in Gaza.
Israel’s communication minister Shlomo Karhi expressed his opposition to Musk’s offer, saying that Israel “will use all means at its disposal to fight this”. He accused Musk of aiding Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza and has been firing rockets at Israeli cities since October 7. He also demanded that Musk condition his offer with the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.
Meanwhile, several UN agencies and NGOs welcomed Musk’s offer, saying that they had lost contact with their staff and health facilities in Gaza due to the blackout. The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked Musk how they could make use of Starlink to try to reach their teams in Gaza. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings said that hospitals and humanitarian operations could not continue without communications.
According to the latest figures from the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, more than 9,000 people have been killed and 17,439 injured in the Israeli strikes since October 7. According to Israeli officials, more than 1,500 people have been killed and 5,431 injured by Hamas rockets. The conflict has also displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused widespread damage to infrastructure and basic services in Gaza.