Amid the hellish humanitarian crisis in Gaza, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has promised to provide Starlink internet access to aid groups in the besieged region — but there are some enormous hurdles to clear before that promise can come to fruition.
After internet connectivity was cut to Gaza on Friday night, Musk tweeted that SpaceX "will support communication links with internationally recognized aid organizations" while admitting that "no terminals" in the area had "attempted to communicate with our constellation."
As Al Jazeera reports, that's probably because nothing can get in or out of the blighted strip of land due to Israel's "total" blockade on the area for its alleged support of the militant group Hamas.
"Starlink terminals or dishes in Gaza would be difficult to smuggle in and distribute at scale," Marc Owen Jones, a journalist and associated professor of Middle East studies at Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa University, told the news network. "The Israeli government is unlikely to allow legal imports of it."
There have been comments from Israeli officials to that effect, too.
"Israel will use all means at its disposal to fight this," Israel's communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, tweeted in response to Musk. The official added because the country believes Hamas "will use [the terminals] for terrorist activities," his office plans to "cut any ties" it has to Starlink.
Even if Starlink were able to make inroads despite the government's apparent opposition, Owen Jones says that other infrastructural issues that have occurred as a result of the Israel-Hamas war would also stand in the way.
"How will it be powered?" the Middle East expert told Al Jazeera ."There is no fuel in Gaza right now."
While there has been some precedent for Starlink access during humanitarian crises in the past — when Musk made a similar promise to Ukraine in early 2022 after Russia first invaded its neighbor — Politico pointed out that it primarily worked because the infrastructure (read: terminals) were already there and able to be activated easily.
In Gaza, meanwhile, it's unclear if there are any Starlink dishes at all. Given the communications minister's promise of a soft ban on the terminals, it's hard to imagine any more getting in anytime soon.
Israel has, per insider sources that spoke to the Washington Post, restored communications and internet access to Gaza following pressure from US officials — but as of right now, it doesn't seem like Starlink is part of that equation at all.
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