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Israel, Hamas Battle Becomes A Twitter War

Posted: November 15, 2012

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NPR's Greg Myre And Andy Carvin Talk To Michel Martin

In a marriage of social media and warfare, Israel announced its military operation in the Gaza Strip via Twitter. Shortly afterward, Israel released video footage of a deadly air strike. Hamas, meanwhile, has been commenting on its rocket attacks against Israel.

Palestinians try to extinguish fire following an Israeli air strike on Wednesday in Gaza City.

Palestinians try to extinguish fire following an Israeli air strike on Wednesday in Gaza City. Mohammed Abed

In their long conflict, the Israelis and the Palestinians often fight just as fiercely on the propaganda front as they do on the battlefield. Social media is taking the clash to new heights with both sides taking the unprecedented steps of announcing military operations in almost real time.

The Israeli military is live-tweeting and blogging its military operation directed at Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is responding in kind.

The Israelis on Wednesday released black-and-white video footage showing the airstrike that killed Ahmed al-Jabari, the leader of Hamas' military wing.

The video clearly comes from an aircraft, though Israel did not provide additional details. Israel, a pioneer in drone technology, has been using drones over Gaza for years to keep watch on the territory and to carry out strikes.

Shortly after Israel carried out the attack against al-Jabari, Israel formally announced the launch of the Gaza operation on Twitter, rather than say, a press conference at military headquarters.

This may well be the first time a military campaign has formally been declared on Twitter, as Fast Company noted.

Over the past decade, Israel and Palestinian militants have clashed repeatedly in Gaza. In the latest round, like many that preceded it, the Palestinians unleashed a barrage of rockets from northern Gaza into southern Israel, and the Israeli military has pounded Gaza with airstrikes.

It's been common practice for Israeli warplanes to drop leaflets in Arabic warning Palestinian civilians to stay away from the areas where the militants are firing rockets. The leaflets stressed that the Israeli air force would be targeting those militants.

On Wednesday, the military saved itself the trouble of printing leaflets and issued this warning via Twitter: "We recommend no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead."

The Palestinians have also been firing social media salvos.

Hamas' military wing, known as the Izzaldin al-Qassam Brigades, offered this rejoinder to Israel: "Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)."

While Israel has posted videos and photos shortly after attacks took place, Hamas has been commenting on the rocket attacks it has been carrying out.

This has offered an up-to-the-minute record of the fighting. But as the BBC noted, it appears to be in conflict with Twitter's rules, which say: "Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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