Rafah, Palestinian Territories – Power cuts have become a fact of life in war-torn Gaza. But thanks to embedded SIM cards, Palestinians can still access the Internet and maintain a channel of communication with loved ones abroad.
“Without them, we’d be cut off from the world,” said Mr Hani al-Shaer, a local journalist who depends on eSIM cards to do his live streams.
“And no one would know what was happening in Gaza,” he added, just as the besieged territory on Dec 26 experienced the latest in a series of telecoms breakdowns since the war began.
The war erupted after the Hamas attack on Oct 7 killed around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest official Israeli figures.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has led a massive air and ground campaign against the Palestinian militants in retaliation.
The offensive has left vast areas of Gaza in ruins and killed at least 20,915 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Human Rights Watch has warned that phone and Internet disruptions in Gaza could “provide cover for atrocities and breed impunity, while further undermining humanitarian efforts and putting lives at risk”.
The idea behind the eSIM is simple: they are a software version of the chips traditionally inserted into phones to connect to cellular networks and the Internet.
Embedded directly into a device, they can be activated using a QR code, which Gaza residents receive from family members living abroad.
The Gaza residents are then able to connect in roaming mode to a foreign network – often an Israeli one or sometimes Egyptian.
The eSIM has been a godsend, said Ms Samar Labad.
The 38-year-old fled her home in Gaza City for the south, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have been living in makeshift camps.
Now in Rafah, she had lost contact with her family for over a week. But then her brother – who lives in Belgium – sent her an eSIM.