Screen capture of Hamas' official Twitter account.
It’s a sign of the times: never before had the start of a military operation been announced on Twitter, until the Israeli Army decided to do just that when it attacked Gaza on Wednesday. Ever since, the Army’s communications department has been tweeting and uploading videos onto YouTube non-stop. Hamas activists also have been reacting on the Internet, but to a far lesser degree. Just as with the armed conflict, it seems the two sides are not fighting on a level playing field.
The tweets are aggressive and direct. Here’s a Twitter exchange between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Al Qassam Brigade, a branch of Hamas:
Twitter exchange between the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the Al Qassam Brigade.
Social networking sites are not only used to share information with the rest of the world, they are also on the conflict's frontline. The Al Qassam Brigades uses its Twitter account to share information, images and announce official declarations on the fast-evolving situation in Gaza.
Hamas also posts official declarations on its Twitter page, but their account is considerably less active than that of the Al Qassam Brigade. Both are far less active than the IDF's account, which is constantly feeding followers with information, arguments, videos, and graphics. Fellow tweeters get quick responses to their questions.
Only a handful of videos can be found on Hamas’ YouTube channel, where the most recent is a year old.
Individual Palestinian activists, for their part, are active under the English hashtag #Gazaunderattack, and Arabic [Gaza war guidance]. Using this hastag, Palestinians advise each other how to avoid the latest wave of Israeli bombardment, and share safety information.
For instance, this tweet reads: “Try sticking plastic tape onto window panes and school books to prevent them falling apart because of aftershocks from the bombs”.
And this one: “Always keep a charged-up battery and make sure your first-aid kit is in reach, and that everyone in your family knows where to find them”.
Even if many Palestinians and Israelis understand little of the English language tweets, the fact that both sides are tweeting in English indicates they’re trying to reach out to a global audience.
Social networking sites serve as forums to call and organise protests. A Google doc is updated in real time to keep track of demonstrations throughout the world in support of Gaza.
The blog, Occupied Palestine, offers a live blog, detailing what’s happening on the ground.
But the most media savvy of the lot are the ‘Anonymous’ hackers, who claim to have successfully hacked an official Israeli government website. They first posted a video on YouTube (see below), warning they would carry out a ‘crusade’ on the Israeli ‘rule of terror’. Followers have been tweeting about it under the hashtag #OpIsrael.
Screen capture from an official Israeli website hacked by 'Anonymous'.
Bloggers and activists worldwide scour the web looking for information in the Arabic and Western media. They share links which detail the offensive and keep track of the number of Palestinian casualties.
The Palestinian press is also active on Twitter and across the airwaves - notably, the Gaza-based press agency Qudsnet News Agency and the television channel Al-Aqsa TV.