The Hamas rulers of Gaza are working on eliminating any trace of Israeli influence in their enclave, particularly in the field of communications.
Pre-paid SIM cards provided by Israeli mobile firms are now being targeted by Hamas telecommunications and interior ministries as off-limits for residents of Gaza. One can quietly purchase SIM cards from both Partner and Cellcom at Gaza shops and kiosks whose owners or relatives travel abroad.
The only “legitimate” internet service provider in Gaza, and in the Palestinian Authority, has been Jawwal, owned by PalTel. But the 3G and $G signals of Partner and Cellcom towers are strong, located just across the border, and reach into part of the PA and Gaza territories.
Gaza officials try to fight this by saying the cards pose a security risk and cause economic problems for the government; they also say they contribute to the “immorality” of the population by allowing access to internet content not otherwise available.
But the popular Cellcom SIM is available for NIS 50, providing 5,000 minutes of talk time and basic unlimited internet access. Jawwal’s SIM, for the same price, provides only 130 minutes of talk time and a much more restricted internet.
Vendors who are caught selling Israeli cards are now threatened with “sanctions,” according to Ynet. Recently a store in Gaza City received an order from police not to sell Cellcom SIM cards.
A spokesperson for the Gaza Interior Ministry also told Reuters that Israeli intelligence agents also use the SIM cards to stay in touch with “collaborators.”
Hana Levi Julian