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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Israelis and Palestinians in first Twitter war

As armed conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants escalated, a new kind of war broke out between the two foes – over Twitter and other social media.

Israelis and Palestinians in first Twitter war
A Palestinian boy pushes his bicycle through the rubble in an area targeted by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence on Wednesday, the Israeli Defence Force in particular has used its Twitter account to report attacks, highlight its successes, aim for the moral high ground and threaten the enemy.
Within minutes of the strike that incinerated the vehicle Ahmed al-Jaabari, the Hamas militant wing leader, was travelling in, the IDF spokesman's office posted video of his car exploding on YouTube, which then quickly began circulating on Twitter.
It posted a red-tinted graphic of killed in an air strike, with the word "Eliminated" emblazoned in capital letters. It urged online users following the account to "retweet" the graphic.
Later in the day, the IDF, via its @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account, issued a transparent threat: "We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead."
The @AlqassamBrigade account of Hamas's military wing account quickly retorted: "@IDFSpokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)."
Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been used to galvanise political protest in the Middle East and elsewhere, but this is the first time either has been used for such blatantly belligerent purposes.
The IDF's Twitter account rapidly gained followers, more than tripling its numbers to 103,000 by Thursday evening. The less sophisticated Hamas account gained followers more slowly with only 10,800.
Though the Israelis were both inflicting more casualties on the ground and winning the Twitter war in terms of volume, there were signs that its bold approach on both fronts could backfire.
Twitter users responded to the IDF's tweets with denunciations of Israeli aggression and pictures of a Palestinian girl killed in the air strikes.
The hashtag #GazaUnderAttack was created by Palestinian sympathisers to allow Twitter users to keep up with reports and pictures of civilian suffering. Its usage was heavier than the IDF's account.
But generally on the service, there were also however plenty of comments supporting the Israelis or condemning both sides at once.

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Latest updates as the renewed conflict enters a second day, as Tel Aviv is hit for the first time by Gaza rockets.

Israel yesterday killed a top Hamas military commander in a targeted strike in Gaza on Wednesday, prompting outrage from militants who said the Jewish state had opened
A rocket launched by Palestinian militants towards Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Gaza conflict: Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to broaden confrontation with Hamas

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, threatened to broaden the confrontation with Hamas, giving a defiant justification of his government's attacks on the Gaza strip.

Gaza conflict: Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to broaden confrontation with Hamas
Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: REUTERS

Defending a bombardment which has so far killed not only militants but five Palestinian children, Mr Netanyahu, in a typically combative press conference said: "In the past 24 hours, Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate rocket and missile attacks on its civilians. I hope that Hamas and the other terror organisations in Gaza got the message.
"If not, Israel is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people."
The Israeli Defence Force's aerial bombardment of the Gaza strip continued throughout the day, with another seven deaths bringing the total to 15. In return, a continuous fusillade of rockets, more than 150 in all, was fired by both Hamas and the more radical Islamic Jihad from Gaza, one hitting an apartment block in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, killing three civilians including an eight-month pregnant woman.
Later in the day, two rockets, claimed by Islamic Jihad, came close to Israel's commercial capital, Tel Aviv, which has not been attacked since being hit by Iraqi Scud missiles in the first Gulf War in 1991.
Both Mr Netanyahu and his Hamas rivals and its backers were last night weighing up the risks and gains to be had from an escalation of the crisis into a full-scale land war.


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