Israel, Hamas Bring Escalating Gaza Strip Battle Onto Twitter

The world’s eyes are focused on the increasingly escalating battle between Israel and the Hamas government on the Gaza Strip after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killed militant leader Ahmed Jabari and spawned missile attacks from both sides.

But while soldiers and militants are prepping for a possible ground battle, another battle is taking place on the social media networks. Setting a precedent unheard of in military history, the IDF is live-blogging its combat efforts on Twitter under the username @IDFSpokesperson. The IDF has updated Twitter users worldwide with their minute-by-minute description of the offensive, right up to the minute that they killed Jabari in a missile attack on his car. They even have a meme-ish image saying that Ahmed Jabari was “eliminated” to boast their victory.

In addition to giving Twitter users details on their Gaza attacks, the IDF sternly warned Hamas followers not to get in their way: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

Not to be outdone in the social media war of hearts and minds, the Hamas militant wing Alqassam Brigades took potshots at the IDF tweets and responded that they will prevail: “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves).” Taking a cue from the IDF, they too have live-blogged their own military efforts in this ever-growing battle.

Given the fast and open nature of the Internet, this could pose a risk for the IDF’s military strategy. Imagine if the Department of Defense live-blogged the raid that killed Al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden last year. Would their live-blogging have put soldiers in harm’s way and emboldened Al-Qaeda to launch a counter-attack?

Besides adding another layer of government transparency, the IDF tweets are drastically changing the way opposing sides are trying to win public support. Ever since the Vietnam War began being broadcast in color, the horrors of battle have been transplanted into the living room through the magic of television. Now with 24-hour news, YouTube and Twitter disseminating information, social media users are more connected with the news than ever before through a variety of sources. The addition of IDF’s and Hamas’ Twitter accounts to the Battle of Gaza story has started a new war of information. Which side will win that war? Stay tuned.