Israel And Hamas Conflict Spills Onto Twitter

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The bitter fighting between Israel and Hamas migrates on to Twitter

The online world has begun to play a part in the escalating conflict between the Israeli armed forces and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The violence in the Gaza Strip worsened on Wednesday when Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military chief, in a drone strike on his car. The Israeli action was in response to numerous rocket attacks fired by Hamas into Israel.

Hamas reacted and has begun increasing the number of rockets it is firing into Israel, with three Israelis killed in the town of Kiryat Malachi. Rockets have also reportedly hit Israel’s commercial and cultural capital Tel Aviv for the first time, although the IDF is claiming that its “Iron Dome” missile defence system has successfully intercepted scores of incoming rockets.

Online propaganda

And the bitter conflict has moved online, with the microblogging site Twitter carrying most of the war of words.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) began live-tweeting and blogging about its current military operation against Hamas.

“#Hamas is terrorizing Israeli civilians – over 760 rockets fired from #Gaza hit Israel in 2012 alone,” Tweeted a IDF spokesperson.

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

“The first target, hit minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing,” a following tweet revealed.

And then the IDF posted a video onto Youtube of the surgical strike that killed the Hamas military chief whilst he was travelling in his car. The IDF also published a poster of Al-Jabari bearing the words “eliminated”.

Hamas voice

But the IDF is not the only side on Twitter. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, also has its own Twitter feed. It responded by tweeting “Al Qassam mourns the death of its top leader Ahmed Jabari who has been assassinated by #Israeli drones.”

“Assassination of the great leader Ahmed al Jabari is the beginning of liberation war and ominous harbinger on sons of Zion,” it later tweeted. It also tweeted about its other rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns and cities, and military bases. And it also posted photos said to be of civilian casualties of the Israeli strikes.

And the war of words showed no sign of slowing down, with the IDF warning “we recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead”.

Twitter intervention?

There is little doubt that both sides are using Twitter for their respective propaganda purposes, and it remains to be seen whether Twitter will act to intervene in the online war between the two sides.

Twitter in the past has faced protests over moves to begin censoring certain tweets.

The  company has previously said it could block a Tweet in a country where what was being said was illegal – in accordance with that country’s laws. Last month, Twitter blocked access to a neo-Nazi account to Twitter users in Germany.

The company also previously pledged to clamp down on the ‘horrific’ problem of online trolling, bullying and abuse.

But Twitter censorship remains a tricky subject. Last month, a majority of TechWeekEurope readers said that it was wrong for Twitter to censor Tweets from neo Nazis.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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