Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Internet service to the Palestinian territories was disrupted yesterday after hackers attacked the servers providing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with online access in the early hours of the morning. This led to the entire internet network in the Palestinian territories being brought down, wreaking havoc on Palestinian organizations and businesses that rely the web, including government ministries and banks, as well as the media. Internet service had largely been restored across the Palestinian territories by Wednesday afternoon.
This cyber-attack took place after Palestine was granted full membership status to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], a move that was received with widespread condemnation and anger from within Israel, leading to the belief that Jewish or pro-Israeli hackers were responsible for this attack.
Palestine was subject to an organized DoS [denial of service] attack on Tuesday, cutting internet services and phone lines to the Palestinian territories. Palestinian Communications Minister Mashur Abu Daqqa said that the Palestinians would ask the International Telecommunications Union [ITU], a UN-agency, to officially investigate the cyber-attack which targeted the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Palestinian Communications Minister also told the press that the Palestinian servers were attacked “in an organized way using mirror servers” adding “I think, from the manner of the attack and its intensity, that there is a state behind it.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mohamed al-Ayadi, who is an adviser to the Palestinian Communications Minister, revealed that “since 5 am [on Tuesday] we were subject to an organized and systematic cyber-attack from hackers from more than 20 countries…which led to the disruption and the disabling of the internet service, firstly to the West Bank, before the cyber-attackers turned their attention to the Gaza Strip.”
Al-Ayadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that this cyber-attack continued throughout the day until Tuesday evening, with local, Arab, and even international efforts being exerted to repel this.
The Palestinian Communications Ministry adviser refused to speculate as to who was responsible for this cyber-attack, but stressed that every effort is being made to uncover those responsible for this.
However Palestinian Communication Minister Mashur Abu Daqqa later told the press that “Israel could be involved, as it announced (on Monday) that it was considering the kinds of sanctions it would impose on us.” He added “it was clear that this attack was intended to wipe the name of Palestine off the internet in response to Palestinian membership at UNESCO.”
Abu Daqqa also suggested that this “organized” cyber-attack was the “work of a state” whilst Palestinian Communication Ministry adviser, Mohamed al-Ayadi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “ordinary people or even average hackers could not have carried out this cyber-attack.” He added “the hackers who carried out this attack are more dangerous and more numerous than some people imagine, this was part of a large-scale organized and systematic attack.”
Palestinian sources have suggested that Jewish or pro-Israeli groups could be responsible for this cyber-attack in retaliation for Palestine obtaining full UNESCO membership. One of the IT experts who was working on repelling this cyber-attack told Asharq Al-Awsat that “they [the hackers] are sending 5 million communication requests [to Palestinian servers] every minute from more than one source, which overloaded the Palestinian servers.” He added “this led to the collapse of all the [Palestinian] internet servers that operate globally, whilst those that operate on the local level were not affected.”