When the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began their offensive against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on November 14, they started live-tweeting the entire military operation -- and even engaged in some digital skirmishes with Hamas’s military wing.
The Twitter battle is being played out between the IDF’s public-relations team -- which uses the Twitter handle @IDFSpokesperson -- and Hamas’s military wing, tweeting as @AlqassamBrigades.
It's being waged as Israeli air strikes have killed 13 Gazans -- including Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari -- and as Hamas-launched rockets have killed three people in southern Israel.
It began with this from the IDF:
Two minutes later, @IDFSpokesperson announced that the IDF's first target had been hit:
Soon after, digital placards, infographics, and videos of air strikes from the IDF PR team began emerging, like this one of the IDF dropping leaflets warning civilians to keep away from likely targets:
The IDF’s message to Hamas to run and hide was quickly retweeted nearly 4,000 times.
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
Hamas’s military wing, tweeting as @AlqassamBrigades, responded with a warning of its own:
@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) November 14, 2012
It's not just Twitter. The IDF has been posting updates on its blog, too.
Emotionally charged tweets containing videos and photos also began appearing from both sides, like this one of a rocket attack on southern Israel from earlier this year:
Alqassam Brigades have sent several tweets containing graphic photos of children they say were injured in the Israeli air strikes. The tweet below, however, does not contain a photo.
Minute-by-minute public coverage by a military force of an ongoing offensive appears to be a first in the social-media sphere. But a war of words waged on Twitter by opposing sides in a conflict is nothing new.
In September 2011, a Taliban spokesman and the press office for NATO-led ISAF forces sparred on Twitter following a Taliban assault on Kabul.
-- Deana Kjuka