Hamas forbids use of Israeli SIM cards

Hamas insists Gaza residents only use Arab SIM cards, claims Israeli SIMS are 'unsafe.'

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Flash 90

Gaza police are working to stop distribution and sale of pre-paid Israeli SIM cards from Cellcom and Partner, claiming they pose security, moral, and economic risks.

Though the use of Israeli SIM cards has always been forbidden, Gaza's black market has thrived, with many kiosk owners selling the cards under the table. Those who are caught are threatened with "sanctions."

One vendor said, "We got a new warning. Two weeks ago I got a police order not to sell Cellcom SIMS."

Gaza's telecommunications and interior ministries are run by Hamas.

Licensing Director at Gaza Telecommunications Ministery Zeyad Al-Sheikh Deeb said, "These companies are not registered in Palestinian areas and therefore we can't allow them to operate.They represent an unfair competition to national companies and cau se damage to our economy."

Partner Communications pointed out that pre-paid SIM cards can be bought from kiosks in Israel, and insisted they were not involved in any marketing or business in Gaza.

Gaza's cell phones are operated by PalTel's Jawwal network. However, cell phone towers in Israel can provide reception in Gaza as well. Cellcom, especially, is thought to have a more reliable signal, as well as cheap packages that include text messages, internet, and nearly unlimited talk time, while the same amount of money would allow a Jawwal user only 130 minutes of talk time and less internet access.

Gaza's Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bozom claims Israeli SIM cards present security risks and pull business away from Jawwal, thereby harming Gaza's economy.

"Conversations made via these cards can be stored on Israeli servers and used by the occupation," Al-Bozom told Reuters. "Israeli intelligence officers have also used these SIM cards to contact some collaborators."

Deeb says the unrestricted internet access afforded by Israeli SIMS is constitutes a moral risk, since the internet is unfiltered.

"This is an additional reason to ban (Israeli SIMs)," he said.

Though it is estimated that 370,000 Israeli SIM cards are used in the Palestinian Authority, no information is available for Gaza.

Despite their claims of Israeli SIM cards harming Gaza's economy, Hamas has repeatedly shown that it cares only about its own pocketbooks, using UN and international aid to build terror tunnels and rockets instead of to improve the infrastructure and provide citizens with education and jobs.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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