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Israel and Hamas wage online war of words

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-15

Israel has pitted Twitter hash-tag “PillarofDefense against Hamas’s “GazaUnderAttack in a social media war of words, as both sides continue to trade fire following the killing of the Palestinian group’s military commander.

Social media became a weapon of war Thursday as both Israel and Hamas used sites like Twitter and Facebook aggressively in the wake of an Israeli raid on the Gaza Strip that killed the Palestinian group’s military commander.

On Wednesday, Israel launched retaliatory attacks against the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave, from where militants have been launching rockets towards cities in southern Israel.

The offensive was announced on Twitter first, in a style more commonly associated with a product launch. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) also ran a live blog of the attack.

The IDF is using a hash-tag for Twitter users to follow the operation - #PillarofDefense, while it also has a regularly-updated account on microblogging platform Tumblr.

“The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets,” the Israeli military tweeted on Wednesday.

Minutes later, the same account announced the killing of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the military commander of Hamas’s armed wing.

This post was followed up with another tweet including a link to a YouTube video: “In case you missed it - VIDEO - IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari, Head of #Hamas Military Wing http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 #PillarOfDefense.”

‘You opened hell gates’

Hamas’s military arm, the al-Qassam Brigades, immediately responded, using its own hash-tag #GazaUnderAttack, addressing the IDF directly: “@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves).”

Meanwhile, in a sign that the Israeli’s had also launched a pre-emptive cyber attack against Hamas, the Brigades’ website was down on Thursday morning.

The power of social media is not restricted to pushing a propaganda message – both sides, and in particular Israel, are using it as a tool to monitor what commentators and web users are saying.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from Israel, said that moments before the IDF announced it had launched its attack, the Israeli military became one of his own Twitter “followers”.

“I’m not a big Twitter user myself,” he said. “But this demonstrates that the IDF isn’t just using the Internet for communicating their message - they are also keeping very close tabs on what journalists are saying."

Date created : 2012-11-15

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