Palestinians say Microsoft unfairly closing their accounts

man charging his phone in a charging station in gaza strip
The Israeli military campaign has badly affected internet and mobile connectivity in Gaza [Getty Images]

Palestinians living abroad have accused Microsoft of closing their email accounts without warning - cutting them off from crucial online services.

They say it has left them unable to access bank accounts and job offers - and stopped them using Skype, which Microsoft owns, to contact relatives in war-torn Gaza.

Microsoft says they violated its terms of service - a claim they dispute.

"They killed my life online," said Eiad Hametto, who lives in Saudi Arabia.

"They’ve suspended my email account that I’ve had for nearly 20 years - It was connected to all my work," he told the BBC.

He also said being cut off from Skype was a huge blow for his family.

The internet is frequently disrupted or switched off there because of the Israeli military campaign - and standard international calls are very expensive.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza in response to the Hamas attack on 7 October, which killed about 1,200 people. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 38,000 people have been killed in the war.

With a paid Skype subscription, it is possible to call mobiles in Gaza cheaply - and while the internet is down - so it has become a lifeline to many Palestinians.

Some of the people the BBC spoke to said they suspected they were wrongly thought to have ties to Hamas, which Israel is fighting, and is designated a terrorist organisation by many countries.

But Mr Hametto denied he had any such links.

“We are civilians with no political background who just wanted to check on our families," he said.

Microsoft did not respond directly when asked if suspected ties to Hamas were the reason for the accounts being shut.

But a spokesperson said it did not block calls or ban users based on calling region or destination.

"Blocking in Skype can occur in response to suspected fraudulent activity," they said, without elaborating.

Salah Elsadi
Salah Elsadi says he has been locked out of life online [BBC]

Salah Elsadi, who lives in the US, also told the BBC that in April, he was kicked out of his account - and all services linked to his Microsoft Hotmail account.

"I've had this Hotmail for 15 years," Mr Elsadi told the BBC.

"They banned me for no reason, saying I have violated their terms - what terms? Tell me.

"I've filled out about 50 forms and called them many many times."

Another Palestinian the BBC spoke to, Khalid Obaied, said he now no longer trusted Microsoft.

"I paid for a package to make phone calls - then, after 10 days, they ban me for no reason," he said.

"That means it's only because I’m a Palestinian calling Gaza.”