Palestinians carry a dead person who was found in the debris following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. AP
Internet access and the phone network were completely cut across the Gaza Strip on Friday, nearly three weeks after Israel began bombarding Gaza.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health says at least 7,326 people have been killed by Israel's strikes since 7 October, mainly women and children.
"Widespread phone and internet outages occurred in Gaza on 27 October 2023, amid a concerted Israeli bombardment, almost entirely cutting off the 2.2 million residents from the outside world," HRW said in a statement.
"This information blackout risks providing cover for mass atrocities and contributing to impunity for human rights violations," Deborah Brown, the group's senior technology and human rights researcher, said in the statement.
A number of international agencies and NGOs said they had lost touch with their staff in Gaza on Friday, including the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA.
Its humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings said in a statement that UN hospitals and humanitarian operations "can't continue without communications," alongside energy, food, water and medications.
The NGO Amnesty International said it had also lost contact with colleagues in Gaza.
"This communications blackout means that it will be even more difficult to obtain critical information and evidence about human rights violations and war crimes being committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza," it added.
Earlier the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stressed the need for communications to be restored to Gaza, saying the world was "losing a window into the reality” of the conflict.
The lack of information coming out of the Strip “can be filled with deadly propaganda, dis- and misinformation", the organisation added.
The CPJ statement adds that at least 29 journalists have been killes so far while covering the fighting.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the charity organisation known as Doctors Without Borders, also said Saturday it had lost contact with some of its Palestinian colleagues on the ground.
In a message shared on social media, the group said it was "particularly worried for the patients, medical staff and thousands of families taking shelter at Al Shifa hospital and other health facilities".
"We call for the unequivocal protection of all medical facilities, staff, and civilians across the Gaza Strip," MSF said.
MSF's website says it moved international medical staff to the south of Gaza on 13 October, following Israel’s evacuation order. Prior to that, the group had an operational theatre at Al Shifa in the north of the Gaza strip. Al Shifa is Gaza City's main hospital.