LONDON: Israeli authorities have threatened to cut ties with satellite communications company Starlink after boss Elon Musk said it would provide internet links for “internationally recognized aid organizations” in Gaza.
Starlink, a venture led by Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, offers internet access in isolated or otherwise inaccessible regions through the use of low-orbit satellites.
In a message posted on his social media platform X on Saturday, Musk said: “It is not clear who has authority for ground links in Gaza, but do we know that no terminal has requested a connection in that area.” He added that Starlink’s parent company, SpaceX, “will support communication links with internationally recognized aid organizations.”
No terminals from Gaza have attempted to communicate with our constellation.
SpaceX will support communication links with internationally recognized aid organizations.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2023
He reiterated this message in a reply to a post by US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in which she said that “cutting off all communication to a population of 2.2 million is unacceptable.”
Cutting off all communication to a population of 2.2 million is unacceptable. Journalists, medical professionals, humanitarian efforts, and innocents are all endangered.
I do not know how such an act can be defended. The United States has historically denounced this practice. https://t.co/L9iV7TSs2u
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 27, 2023
Israel subsequently threatened to sever ties with Starlink, warning that Hamas would use internet services to plan attacks.
“Israel will use all means at its disposal to fight this,” said Shlomo Karhi, the Israeli communications minister, in a message posted on X.
“Hamas will use it for terrorist activities. There is no doubt, we know it, Musk knows it. Hamas is ISIS,” he added, using another term for the terror group Daesh.
“Perhaps Musk would be willing to condition it with the release of our abducted babies, sons, daughters, elderly people. By then, my office will cut any ties with Starlink.”
Musk responded by saying: “We are not so naive.” He added that if anyone attempts to connect to Starlink from Gaza, the company will take “extraordinary measures to confirm that it is used only for purely humanitarian reasons,” and conduct security checks with the US and Israeli governments “before turning on a single terminal.”
International humanitarian organizations say the internet blackout in Gaza, which began late on Friday, is making an already desperate situation even worse by impeding life-saving operations and blocking communications with their staff on the ground.