SpaceX to Provide Access to Starlink Constellation for “Recognized” Aid Groups in Gaza

Elon Musk announced that SpaceX will provide Starlink-based Internet access to internationally recognized aid groups attempting to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza. It will also provide access to groups from the United Nations working in Gaza.

He had initially stated that it wasn’t clear who had the authority to coordinate ground links, but no ground station had attempted contact. Gaza lost most communications on October 27, likely due to Israeli Defense Force operations in the area.

Other X (formerly Twitter) accounts called for him to provide Starlink service to civilians in the Gaza strip and journalists working in Gaza. The announcement that he would support only internationally recognized aid groups was something he reiterated in several replies to X posts (formerly tweets) without giving a reason. Inofficially, he may wish to dodge any possibility of inadvertently supporting terrorist groups like Hamas.

Other corporations, such as the cryptocurrency exchanges Coinbase and Binance, recently faced scrutiny for allegedly facilitating money laundering for Hamas. When called out for it, though, Binance swiveled to helping Israeli authorities seize assets in Hamas’ exchange accounts. As a Dogecoin fan, Elon Musk would likely have caught wind of this news and decided to play it cautiously by providing Starlink service only to international aid groups and the United Nations.

SpaceX previously demonstrated Starlink’s ability to provide communications in a crisis zone by providing connectivity to the island of Tonga after the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted. It also provided Starlink kits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service for the response to tornadoes in Kentucky. Washington State used Starlink to help coordinate its firefighting efforts during the wildfires of 2020.

Meanwhile, Israel says it is in talks with SpaceX to provide Starlink service as a wartime backup. Elon Musk was recently heavily criticized for refusing to provide service to Ukraine during an offensive in the Crimea region.

Local telecommunications company Paltel blamed the service disruptions on Israel’s aerial bombardments of the region. Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari says its defense forces are expanding operations in Gaza.

Some individuals on Twitter/X expressed concern about friends they had in Gaza in the wake of the communications cutoff. One person asked if anyone had heard anything.

The conflict started when Hamas launched an attack just across the border and took several hostages, including women, the elderly, and children. The corpses of some of the hostages have since been found. A few hostages with dual citizenship have been released. Victims include attendees of a music festival that had been taking place near the Gaza strip.

Elon Musk’s decision to provide Starlink service for internationally recognized aid groups is a cautious but positive step. He may simply be concerned about the risk of inadvertently helping terrorist groups by failing to fully vet the parties he provides Starlink-based communications to in this latest Israel-Hamas conflict.