- Title: Hamas clamps down on Gaza's "insecure" Israeli SIM cards
- Date: 17th November 2016
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (NOVEMBER 16, 2016) (REUTERS) MARKET IN GAZA VARIOUS OF CUSTOMER AT CELLULAR PHONES SHOP CUSTOMER SPEAKING TO MAN AT SHOP SMART PHONES ON DISPLAY EXTERIORS OF THE MINISTRY OF TELECOM AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR OF LICENSING AT THE GAZA TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY, ZEYAD AL-SHEIKH DEEB, AT OFFICE VARIOUS OF AL-SHEIKH DEEB USING LAPTOP (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DIRECTOR OF LICENSING AT THE GAZA TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY, ZEYAD AL-SHEIKH DEEB, SAYING: "The Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministry aims at protecting the national companies that work in telecommunications and information technology, and protecting the Palestinian citizen by introducing the best services in the highest quality and the lowest prices. Therefore, the Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministry decided to ban the trading or selling of Israeli SIM cards, because it is considered as illegal competition to the national companies and affect the Palestinian economy negatively, as well as provides services that are neither secure nor safe for the Palestinian citizen, who gets surprised after using it with its bad service that is not suitable for his uses." VARIOUS OF CELL TOWER OVER BUILDING VARIOUS OF SPOKESMAN FOR THE INTERIOR MINISTRY IN GAZA, IYAD AL-BOZOM (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SPOKESMAN FOR THE INTERIOR MINISTRY IN GAZA, IYAD AL-BOZOM, SAYING: "The security forces and the police have been working lately to prevent the use of these (Israeli) SIM cards and warned all those who use them or sell them to stop dealing with those SIM cards because they are dangerous for the security situation in the Gaza Strip and can be used by the occupation and its security forces to violate the security of the Palestinian citizens here and put the security of Gaza in danger." VARIOUS OF PEOPLE IN MARKET GAZA CITIZEN, AHMAD MATTAR, AT CELLULAR PHONES STORE SIMS, MOBILE ACCESSORIES ON DISPLAY IN STORE MATTAR WALKING AWAY (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZA CITIZEN, AHMAD MATTAR, SAYING: "I hope that the companies involved in the telecommunications field and Jawwal company (Palestinian cellular provider) will lower their prices so young men would not have to buy others (Israeli cellular providers)." JERUSALEM (NOVEMBER 17, 2016) (REUTERS) BUILDING WITH LOGO FOR ISRAELI CELLULAR PROVIDER CELLCOM
- Embargoed: 2nd December 2016 15:26
- Keywords: Palestinians Hamas Gaza Israeli SIM cards
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA / JERUSALEM
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA / JERUSALEM
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00158U06RR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hamas-run authorities in Gaza are trying to stop the sale and distribution of pre-paid SIM cards from Israeli cellular providers, arguing the cards pose economic and security risks and allow users to access "immoral" content.
Officials from the Palestinian telecommunications and interior ministries, which are overseen by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, said there have always been restrictions on the use of Israeli SIMs in the territory, but now they are determined to stamp them out entirely.
Cards from Israel's two biggest providers, Cellcom and Partner, can be found for sale under the counter in kiosks and shops in parts of Gaza, where they are brought in by businessman and traders returning from trips to Israel.
Director of licensing at the Gaza telecommunications ministry, Zeyad Al-Sheikh Deeb, said that the Israeli companies are not registered in Palestinian areas and therefore cannot be allowed to operate there.
"The Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministry decided to ban the trading or selling of Israeli SIM cards, because it is considered as illegal competition to the national companies and affect the Palestinian economy negatively, as well as provides services that are neither secure nor safe for the Palestinian citizen," Zeyad Al-Sheikh Deeb told Reuters Television.
Partner Communications said it had no business activity in Gaza, pointing out that the pre-paid cards were bought from independent distributors in Israel. Cellcom declined to comment.
Neither company operates in Gaza, where Palestinian firm Jawwal, owned by PalTel, runs the only network. But because Partner and Cellcom have towers just across the border in Israel, their 3G and 4G signals can be reached from parts of the territory that are closer to the frontier or on high ground.
Cellcom's signal is said to be more reliable, making its SIMs more popular. For 50 Israeli shekels ($13), Gazans can pick up a SIM giving them 5,000 minutes of talk-time and potentially unlimited Internet access via a virtual private network.
By comparison, a Jawwal SIM for the same price provides just 130 minutes of talk-time and more restricted Web access.
Vendors in the Palestinian enclave who stock Israeli cards said Hamas had been trying to crack down for years but had renewed its push. Those caught selling are threatened with "sanctions", they said.
Iyad Al-Bozom, spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza, said Israeli cards presented a number of problems. As well as shifting users away from the Palestinian network, undercutting its revenue, they carry security risks, he said.
"They are dangerous for the security situation in the Gaza Strip and can be used by the occupation and its security forces to violate the security of the Palestinian citizens here and put the security of Gaza in danger," he said.
Israeli security sources say Israel has long been able to eavesdrop on any conversations in the Palestinian territories, whatever the network, especially among suspected militants.
For Palestinians, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, the advantages of having an Israeli SIM are multiple.
It gives them a back-up network, allows them to more easily speak to Israeli business counterparts, or relatives who are being treated in Israeli hospitals, and because the Israeli networks are new generation, there is better Internet access.
"I hope that the companies involved in the telecommunications field and Jawwal company (Palestinian cellular provider) will lower their prices so young men would not have to buy others (Israeli cellular providers)," said Gaza resident Ahmad Mattar.
Some Gazans use a Cellcom SIM and download a Virtual Private Network app that allows them to get unlimited, free-of-charge service. That can enable them to evade restrictions on sites that contain pornography or other unacceptable content.
There are an estimated 370,000 Israeli SIM cards being used by Palestinians in the West Bank, among a population of 2.8 million. Equivalent usage figures for Gaza were not available.
While the Hamas-led authorities may succeed in stopping the sale of Israeli SIMs in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in charge in the West Bank would have much less success since there is freer passage of goods and people into Israel.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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