Reporters Without Borders today “strongly condemned” the Israeli army’s takeover and shutdown for nearly a day of Palnet, the main Palestinian Internet service provider (ISP) in the West Bank and Gaza.
Soldiers went to Palnet’s offices in Ramallah at 2 a.m. on 15 July, cut off all Internet connections and arrested the six staff technicians present, one of whom was still being held by Israeli intelligence officials.
“This is an attack on the free flow of Internet traffic both within the Occupied Territories and with the rest of the world,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. “Palnet is a private company which is non-political and the Israeli army action seems aimed solely at intimidating the remaining ISPs.” He called for the immediate release of the remaining technician.
The Israeli army gave no reason for its action. No equipment was seized or damage done during the takeover. It was not known where the technician was being held or why. The soldiers left in the evening of the same day and connections were re-established during the night.
Palnet is the server for about two-thirds of Palestinian Internet users, as well as for the Palestinian health service, schools and administration. “We are a private company, with private premises and paid employees,” a Palnet owner Maan Bseiso told Reporters Without Borders. “We are not involved in politics and we do not know why the army has targeted us.”
Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without Borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.