News / Middle East

Israel, Hamas Fight Gaza Conflict Online

Jessica Stahl
Israel and Hamas are fighting in the Gaza Strip, but the conflict is also being fought in an unusual venue – online. Both sides are trying to win the public relations battle by getting their version of what’s happening out on social media.

Israel announced the start of military operations against Hamas not in a televised speech or a press release, but on Twitter, where Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Avital Leibovitch tweeted:



The IDF’s official Twitter account followed with a similar announcement.  A formal press release reached news organizations several minutes to an hour later.

Since then, the Israeli military has continued documenting what it is calling operation “Pillar of Defense” live on social media sites, announcing accomplishments, keeping a running tally of rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and providing justifications for IDF actions.

All in conveniently retweetable bits:



The IDF has long been known for its sophisticated social media operations. It runs accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr and launched a Tumblr account the same day as it launched Pillar of Defense.  In addition to accounts in English, the IDF releases information on social media in Hebrew and several other languages.

But Hamas has not left the final word to the IDF.  The Twitter account for the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, has been just as active in documenting the conflict from a Palestinian point of view.  They have not only been sharing what they see as their own military successes, but also trading varying accounts of the facts with the IDF, and have even responded directly to IDF tweets.
 


If the goal of these efforts on both sides is to garner attention, they are succeeding.  The tweet to which Hamas was responding has been shared some 4,700 times.  The IDF’s Twitter account has gained over 50,000 new followers since the campaign began (to Hamas’ 10,000), and the hashtag #gazaunderattack, being used by Hamas, has been tweeted over a hundred thousand times (to the IDF’s #pillarofdefense hashtag’s tens of thousands).

"Might this open the door for a new kind of war? One not led on the bloodied burning fields of battle, but inside of cyber space?" wondered one user of social sharing site Reddit.

But social media users are also questioning the ethics of using social media to publicize war in this way.  It’s not the first time conflicts have been documented on social media by the militaries involved in them, but it’s one of the most extensive to date.
 
“Not sure if I find this amusing or sad,” pondered another Redditor.

Joseph Flatley of the culture site The Verge was more certain of his opinions.  He wrote that his "reaction to the announcement was visceral: One liveblogs award shows or CES keynotes, not armed conflict."
 
The seemingly trivial approach to deadly warfare that put Flatley on edge is also leading others to question whether this sort of conversation should be permissible at all on social media sites.  Most sites have terms of use that prohibit hate speech or threats of violence. 



So far social media sites haven’t seen the IDF or Hamas’ use as a violation of their terms of service.
 
A Facebook spokesperson told tech site All Things D, “Facebook will not be taking action on the current content posted.”

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs