Social media war erupts as Israel, Hamas battle it out on the ground
Footage of the dramatic missile strike that took out the leader of Hamas's military wing was posted on YouTube just hours after the attack by the Israeli Defence Force, which live-blogged and Tweeted its deadly assault on the Gaza Strip overnight.
And as Hamas hit back with mortars in retaliation for the death of Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, another fierce battle was being waged online as the two groups turned to social media to try to win the propaganda war.
A poster declaring the 'elimination' of Jabari and published online by the Israeli Defence Force. Photo: @idfspokesperson/Twitter
The graphic 10-second video shot from the air shows the moment Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari's vehicle was bombed as it drove through Gaza city, killing the military leader along with another Hamas official. The video was posted online just three hours after the strike.
As the violence played out on the ground, the Israeli Defence Force's (IDF) well-oiled social media campaign swung into action, providing rolling coverage of the attacks dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense.
Through its live blog and official Twitter account, Israel confirmed the death of al-Jabari with video of the strike and a movie-like poster featuring a large image of the 52-year-old's face and the word: Eliminated.
Israeli Defence Force footage, posted on YouTube, showed the attack on Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari from the air. Photo: IDF/AP
"In the past hour, the IDF targeted Ahmed Jabri, the head of Hamas' military wing, in the Gaza Strip. Jabri was a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas' command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against Israel in the past," the live blog said.
Two hours after initially tweeting video of the fatal strike, the IDF tweeted it again "in case you missed it".
Hamas launched retaliatory attacks on the ground, but also hit back online.
Israeli Airstrike attacks on Gaza Strip
Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip November 14, 2012. Israel killed the military commander of the Islamist group Hamas in a missile strike on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and launched air raids across the enclave, pushing the two sides to the brink of a new war. Hamas said Ahmed Al-Jaabari, who ran the organisation's armed wing, Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, died along with an unnamed associate when their car was blown apart by an Israeli missile. Palestinians said nine people were killed, including a seven-year-old girl. Photo: Reuters
“Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves),” said a tweet from the @AlqassamBrigade that was directed to the Israeli Defense Forces Twitter account.
The Al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas, also tweeted real-time updates about the military action it was taking, and paid tribute to al-Jabari.
"Al Qassam mourns the death of its top leader Ahmed Jabari who has been assassinated by #Israeli drones in #Gaza #Hamas," it tweeted.
The Israeli live blog also provided Israel's justification for the cross-border assault as part of an ongoing mission “to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in the#Gaza Strip”.
Israel announced that it had launched a military operation on Twitter at 2am AEST today, tweeting: "The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets."
On Twitter, Israel "recommended" that "no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead".
The Twitter announcement was made before a press conference was held, and is reportedly the world's first announcement of a military campaign via Twitter.
The IDF's live blog allowed it to provide its justification for the strikes.
"In response to the incessant rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip – more than 700 have struck Israel since the beginning of the year, and more than 120 since Saturday – the IDF has launched a widespread campaign against terror targets in Gaza. The operation, called Pillar of Defense, has two main goals: to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza."
On Twitter and its Flickr stream, the IDF also published an aerial photo of what purportedly showed a rocket launch site in Zeitoun, metres away from a mosque, a playground and a cluster of factories.
A video also posted online was said to show a long-range Fajr-5 rocket in Gaza.