NEW DELHI: War propaganda entered a whole new dimension on Wednesday night as the Israeli Defence Forces tweeted a strike in Gaza live. International news portals said this was the world's first broadcast of an ongoing military campaign through Twitter.
The IDF flooded online platforms in its efforts to put out its version of the attack. The strike, in which senior Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari was killed, was not only live-tweeted, but also live-blogged on Tumblr, a blogger's platform. There were also regular updates on video-sharing website YouTube, while pictures and posters were shared on image-sharing website Flickr.
Not to be left behind, Al Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas, also put out their version of the story from their Twitter account @AlqassamBrigade.
This is how the operation unfolded through social media websites. Around midnight on Wednesday, India time, the Israeli Defence Forces launched Operation Pillar of Defense with surgical strikes into Gaza. On Twitter, tweets about the Israeli strike on Gaza were accompanied by the hashtag #PillarOfDefense while those about Hamas' attacks on Israelis were tagged #LifeUnderFire and #Israel Under Fire. A hashtag is a clickable tag that is used to view tweets from different sources about a particular subject together.
"The IDF has embarked on an operation against Hamas, an Iranian proxy responsible for terror attacks on Israel. #Iran #Gaza," @IDFSpokesperson, the Twitter account of the Israeli defence forces tweeted. It was shortly followed by a YouTube link of an aerial video that showed the "pinpoint strike" on Ahmed Jabari's car. Speaking the language of the Internet, they also posted on their Tumblr and Flickr image streams, posters with text and infographics - the kind that are commonly found on Facebook.
Such posters typically give out a piece of information or a message followed by an exhortation to share it. "Three Israeli civilians were killed this morning by a rocket fired from Gaza. The IDF will continue to act to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens and cripple Hamas' terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. Share this if you think Israel has the right to defend itself," said the text of one of the many such posters shared online by the Israeli Defence Forces.
While guns blazed on the ground, attacks and counter attacks took place on the Internet as well. "#Israel's military kills #Palestinian children in cold blood in #Gaza, shelling civilians & populated areas #Humanrights," read a tweet from @AlqassamBrigade. Attached was a picture of officials holding a dead baby, speaking to the television media. Shortly after the strike, the Al Qassam Brigade also tweeted directly at the IDF account saying, "@idfspokesperson our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)". The IDF too had issued a threat before carrying out the operation in a tweet that read, "We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead."
Details of the May 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden in Operation Geronimo were also made available through official social media accounts. However, nothing was put out live.
Sunil Abraham of Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) says that propaganda has been part and parcel of modern warcraft. "From Nazi Germany to US during the Gulf War and this latest example -governments have always co-opted latest technologies into their propaganda campaigns," he says.
(Source: Kim Arora, TNN