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Israel looks to roll out SpaceX Starlink internet amid war with Hamas

Israel is in discussions with SpaceX to rollout Starlink internet services, especially for communities near the conflict zone, an Israeli official said Tuesday.

Starlink currently isn’t available in Israel, so this would be the first time the service is introduced in any capacity. As it seeks to bolster its own communications during wartime, it is also looking into halting cell and internet communications in Gaza, that same official said.

“The activity of coordinating the Israeli company Starlink is taking place, enabling the operation of communication terminals by the company Space-X, which will allow a wide broadband internet connection in Israel,” Israel Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi said on X.  “Additionally, under the guidance of the minister, the ministry promotes the purchase of these satellite devices for the benefit of regional councils and community leaders in conflict zone settlements.”

Karhi’s statement comes a little over one week after Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, led a brutal assault on Israel that killed more than 1,400 mostly civilian Israelis. That attack has been followed by days of retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza, which have in turn killed over 2,800 Palestinians – also mostly civilians.

There is no sign that the war will end soon. The revelation that satellite-based internet provides a critical edge during conflict was made salient shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, when Ukrainian forces relied on Starlink to maintain communications.

But the role that Starlink plays in conflict is far from settled. Earlier this year, it was revealed that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk refused to activate the service when Ukraine requested it prior to a planned attack on Russia’s navy. He later said that he never authorized it to be used, and that, “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

It is unclear when that service might come online or how many users it may have initially. TechCrunch has reached out to the Israeli government and will update the story if a representative responds. It’s also unclear if these terminals would be purchased directly from SpaceX, via its Starshield defense-focused business unit.

source: TechCrunch