Israel tells Elon Musk that Starlink can only operate in Gaza with his authorization – Financial Times

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Israel has told Elon Musk that its Starlink satellite network can only operate in Gaza with his consent, as the entrepreneur met the country’s leaders amid an uproar over alleged anti-Semitism on his social platform X.

The world’s richest man said late last month that his Starlink satellite internet service would “support connectivity to internationally recognized aid organizations in Gaza,” where there have been long power outages due to the Israeli bombing.

But on Monday, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi posted on X that the entrepreneur had “reach.”[ed] an agreement in principle” with the ministry. “Starlink satellite units can operate in Israel only with the permission of the Israeli Ministry of Communications, including in the Gaza Strip,” Karhi said.

Musk has not yet publicly confirmed a deal.

The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is visiting the Jewish state for the first time since Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed 1,200 people and sparked a war between Israel and the militant group.

Israel’s fierce retaliatory attacks and siege of the Strip have sparked a humanitarian crisis, killing more than 13,300 people and leading to prolonged power outages. These have hampered rescue efforts, particularly by preventing ambulances from locating the wounded.

Musk’s visit to Israel coincides with the final day of a four-day lull in hostilities and comes as advertisers are putting pressure on X over a rise in anti-Semitism on the platform.

After appearing to support an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that a White House spokesman called “abhorrent,” Musk was forced to defend himself against accusations of discrimination. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said on X this month. “I wish only the best for humanity.”

A video released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office showed Musk wearing a protective vest touring burned-out homes in Kfar Aza, a kibbutz destroyed by the militant group’s attack, and taking photos with his cellphone.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Musk tweeted cryptically after the visit.

Musk’s initial pledge to enable Starlink in Gaza, which followed telecommunications outages in the enclave, sparked a dispute with the Israeli government, which argued that the connection was being used by Hamas for “terrorist activities.”

A Palestinian medic carries a stretcher as he walks among civilians on the rubble of a building after an airstrike on Rafah

Starlink, part of Musk’s rocket and satellite company SpaceX, uses a constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites to bring internet connectivity to places where traditional access to the internet is difficult. Musk has provided Starlink equipment to Ukraine’s front line with Russia.

The Starlink signal is received via small satellite dishes called terminals. But Musk said in October that no terminals had actually attempted to connect from the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel was controlling the movement of goods into the coastal enclave.

Israel reportedly cut communications to the Strip at times during the seven-week war, while local mobile operator Paltel struggled to obtain enough fuel to keep its network running.

NetBlocks, an internet access tracker, reported improved connectivity in Gaza on Saturday after Paltel said engineers repaired damaged network infrastructure during a temporary ceasefire.