ISRAEL VS HAMAS 2008-2009

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

Hamas

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Map of Gaza Strip

Hamas can be translated as “zeal” and represents the Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, or Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious and political organization founded in Egypt with branches throughout the Arab world. Hamas regards Israel as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank an Islamic land that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims. It believes that jihad (struggle) to “liberate” the land from Israel is the religious duty of every Muslim.

As such, Hamas does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and is banned in Jordan.

Hamas considers terrorism a legitimate means of resistance. Hamas members started carrying out terrorist attacks starting in the late '80s, at first in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The military wing of Hamas, formed in 1992, is known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to commemorate Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the forefather of modern Arab resistance, killed by the British in 1935. Hamas is believed to have killed more than 500 people in more than 350 separate terrorist attacks since then.

Hamas won 77 out of 118 seats in 10 council elections held in Gaza, January 2005. In 2006 Hamas won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats. Hamas and Fatah forces soon began fighting in the streets of the Gaza Strip. In 2007, Hamas and Fatah agreed to share power.

In early June 2007, Fatah and Hamas forces fought again, Hamas eventually stormed Fatah's Gaza headquarters and quickly took control of the north part of Gaza, placing it under military rule.

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Israel recognized a major threat to its territorial integrity and in mid-September, declared the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip a hostile political entity. It imposed a series of economic sanctions against Gaza, including cutting back on electricity and fuel, closing down joint industrial areas and shutting down the crossings connecting Israel and the Strip. Hamas called it a declaration of war and began the firing of what has been estimated as 600 rockets into Israel.

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Marshal gambles on the future

This was not the first time Israel and Gaza had fought. They had sniped at each other both militarily and psychologically for decades. Egypt governed the Gaza Strip from 1948 to 1967 and Israel occupied the Gaza Strip from 1967 to 2005. There was ample opportunity for the Israelis and the Palestinians to find fault with each other. An example of an earlier undated Israeli propaganda leaflet to Gaza is depicted above.

This leaflet was originally offered for sale as propaganda from the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. I had a record of all leaflets used in that war and this item was not among them. The text indicates that it was used in Gaza instead. It shows an individual placing bets on a roulette wheel. The text is: 

Mashal gambles on the future of Palestine and brings you disappointment, despair and destruction. 

The roulette wheel consists of town names but because of the poor resolution we can’t be certain.  The card furthest to the right says “future” but the rest are difficult to see.  

The individual on the leaflet is Khaled Mashal, also known as Khaled Mashaal or Khalid Mish'al. He is a Palestinian exile and the political leader of Hamas (The Islamic Resistance Movement) since 2004.

The Offensive

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Smoke rises from a building in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip,
after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike on January 1, 2009

After months of hostility and hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza against Israel, “Operation Cast Lead” was launched the sixth day of Hanukkah at 1130 on Saturday, 27 December 2008. Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas offices, strongholds and infrastructure in northern and central Gaza.

Two weeks after the initial attack Israel admitted that the preparation of the battlefield and timing of the attack had been a psychological operation. According to Paul Schemn of the Associated Press, The day before the massive Israeli air strike, Israeli military radio channels broadcast talk of a “lull” and pulled troops back from the border. Israeli defense officials later admitted that it was a psychological warfare tactic to lure Hamas fighters out of hiding. The disinformation action allowed Israeli bombers to catch hundreds of Hamas security men inside their compounds.

The operation's second day saw the majority of the underground weapon smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Route destroyed; and within four days, 500 targets were destroyed, including two-thirds of the Strip's rocket launching pads. 

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Hamas prepare rockets for launch

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Hamas launch rocket towards Israel

Hamas fought on. Their troops in Gaza continued to fire at the western Negev and southern Israel, launching dozens of rockets a day. On January 3rd, after a day of aerial shelling and artillery, Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip.

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Israeli Tanks enter the Gaza Strip

Israeli PSYOP

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Leaflet drop over Gaza Strip

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Israeli Leaflet

The Israeli Air Force dropped leaflets over Gaza on 27 December asking the citizens to inform their military of the whereabouts of projectile launchers and Hamas members. The leaflets said:

Dear people of the Gaza Strip,

Bear the responsibility for your fate!

The Projectile launchers and the terrorist elements pose a threat to you and your families.

If you wish to provide help and assistance to your people in the sector, call the number below to provide us with the needed information.

The future of the massacre is in your hands. Don’t hesitate!

We will be glad to receive any information you have and it is not necessary to give us your personal information.

We will keep it as a secret. Call us at the following number: 02-5839749

Or e-mail us at: Helpgaza2008@gmail.com to provide us with any information on the terrorist factions.

Note: To protect your safety we ask you to be secretive when you call us.

Commander: Israeli Defense Forces.

By Nir Hasson and Yoav Stern wrote about this general type of leaflet in an article entitled “The Unreported Battle with Hamas: Psychological Warfare” in Haaretz.com.

Artillery barrages and aircraft missiles are not the only way Israel is communicating with the people of Gaza. Since the start of the conflict, the Israel Defense Force has tried to wage psychological war on the civilian population. The most common methods include dropping fliers from the air, taking control of Hamas' radio airwaves and sending mass text messages.

The army often distributes leaflets warning residents against taking military action or fraternizing with Hamas operatives. The fliers are generally attributed to an ambiguous "IDF force commander" calling on residents to take responsibility for their own fate. They tell them that “rocket launchers and terror elements are a danger to you and your families. If you want to help, all you have to do is call this number and state the location of the rocket launchers and terror cells operating in your area. You can still prevent disaster. Do not hesitate!” They also promise utmost secrecy.

Pacifist, Left-wing and pro-Islamic websites have all called for anti-Israeli messages to be left on the phone and Internet sites mentioned in the leaflet. Shortly after the text of the leaflet was published a number of prank calls and messages appeared on the Internet.

On the same day, about 20,000 phone calls were made throughout the entire Gaza Strip saying:

The IDF will hit and destroy any site or building containing ammunition or weapons.

As of the publication of this announcement, the life of anyone in whose home ammunition and weapons are to be found is in danger, and he must leave the place for the sake of his own safety and that of his family.

The Israel Defense Forces Command

Jim Michaels mentioned the cell phone warfare in a U.S.A. Today article entitled “Cell phones put to ‘unnerving’ use in Gaza.”

Palestinian phone users report receiving calls on both cell phones and land lines, encouraging them to turn in Hamas militants or warning them their home is about to be bombed. Israeli officials say they are doing Palestinians a service by advising them of impending attacks so civilians can get out of a building. “We have to do what we can to warn civilians,” said Maj. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli military spokesman. Israeli military officials have declined to discuss the reports ­ or whether they use phone calls for other means, such as deceiving militants. “All I can say is we call them, especially when we're going to target a building,” Dallal said.

 

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Time is running out

Israeli Defense Forces also took over Hamas' Al-Aqsa television station. The station became infamous in 2007 for broadcasting a children's show featuring an anti-Semitic Mickey Mouse look-a-like. The IDF hacked into Al-Aqsa on 27 December, and broadcast an image of a ringing phone that no one was answering. The messages in Arabic was:

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Hamas leadlers are hiding

Hamas leaders are hiding and they are leaving you on the front line.

On December 28, 300,000 leaflets were dropped throughout the entire Gaza Strip. There text was: 

To the residents of the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Force will act against any movements and elements conducting terrorist activities against the residents of the State of Israel.

The IDF will hit and destroy any building or site containing ammunition and weapons.

As of the publication of this announcement, anyone having ammunition and/or weapons in his home is risking his life and must leave the place for the safety of his own life and that of his family.

You have been warned.

The Israel Defense Force Command

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Reading Leaflet among the rubble

On 28 December the IDF broadcast an animated clip of seven Hamas leaders, first with a bullet in each head, then with all falling over in a pile. The image was then a clock and the text in Arabic: “Time is running out.” Similar messages were sent out on Al-Aqsa radio, as well. Some of the messages were:

Hamas leaders are hiding in the tunnels and are leaving you on the frontline of Israel's Defense Forces.

Hamas leaders are lying to you and they are hiding in hospitals, Launching rockets puts civilians in danger.

On December 29, 80,000 leaflets were dropped in Rafah and about 10,000 phone calls were made to the residents of Rafah. The leaflet message is:

<>

To Rafah Residents,

Israel Defense Forces is operating against the organizations and individuals that participate in terrorist activity targeting the State of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces will strike and destroy every site or building in which weapons or smuggling tunnels are found.

Following this announcement, anyone located in a build containing weapons, or where there are smuggling tunnels, is there at his/her own risk and it is his/her responsibility to exit and evacuate his/her family!

You have been warned!Israel Defense Forces Command

The Israelis also broke into the local radio transmissions of Radio Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Radio and Radio PFLP. The message was:

To the residents of Rafah:

A military announcement -

The IDF will act against any organizations and elements carrying out terrorist activities against the residents of the State of Israel.

The IDF will hit and destroy any building or site containing ammunition, weapons or tunnels.

As of the issuing of this announcement, anyone having ammunition and/or weapons or a tunnel in his home is risking his life and must leave the place for his own safety and that of his family.

You have been warned.

The Israel Defense Forces Command

At the Islamic Jihad's Voice of Jerusalem radio station in Gaza City, broadcaster Kamal Abu Nasser said that at least once an hour, the Israeli military breaks into his signal and broadcasts messages blaming Hamas for all the problems in the Gaza Strip.

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To the Residents of the Area

On January 3, the IDF dropped 300,000 leaflets in the entire Gaza Strip, especially in the northern and eastern parts. The leaflets said:

To the Residents of the Area

Because of the terrorist actions that terrorist elements are carrying out from the areas where you live against the State of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces are obliged to carry out an immediate response and act inside the areas where you live.

For your safety you are asked to evacuate this area as soon as possible

Commander, Israel Defense Force

On January 3 and 4 there were reports that the IDF dropped thousands of leaflets in Gaza City and other areas warning residents to evacuate their homes. The leaflets said that:

To the residents of the area, because of the terrorist actions that terrorist elements are carrying out from the areas where you live against the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces are obliged to carry out an immediate response and act inside the areas where you live, so for your safety you are asked to evacuate this area as soon as possible

Commander, Israel Defense Force

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Gaza residents reading leaflet

The Israelis also broke into the Gaza radio stations once again and made the Announcement:

Military announcement:

To all residents of the area.

For your own safety, you are required to leave your homes immediately and
move to the city centers.

The Israel Defense Command.  

On January 5, 300,000 leaflets were dropped in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah. The International Herald Tribune mentioned a third leaflet that allegedly said:

Hamas is getting a taste of the power of the Israeli military after more than a week and we have other methods that are still harsher to deal with Hamas. If the army uses them, the toll will be very painful. For your safety, please evacuate your neighborhood.

Additionally, the Shin Bet security service actually telephoned residents of specific buildings and apartment blocks, giving them up to 15 minutes to leave the area. Some of the reported messages are:

We are getting rid of Hamas and we will use still other means to do so.

Urgent message. Warning to the citizens of Gaza. Hamas is using you as human shields. Do not listen to them. Hamas has abandoned you and are hiding in their shelters.

At about 2000 (8:00 p.m.) on 5 January, forces from Infantry Corps, Engineering Corps, Armored Corps, Artillery Corps and Intelligence Corps entered the Gaza Strip with the aim of significantly weakening the Hamas infrastructure and gaining control over various launching areas.

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Palestinians read leaflets

On the evening of 7 January, there was a report that an Israeli warplane dropped leaflets over the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border, urging residents to flee because of planned Israel strikes. The leaflet included the names of four neighborhoods expected to be hit by the IDF. Hamas allegedly has weapons smuggling tunnels in the area and Israel had already destroyed dozens of them in air strikes. Israeli officials believe that about 300 tunnels were used for smuggling weapons from Egypt to the Strip before the Gaza operation was launched.

The leaflet said in part:

Because Hamas uses your houses to hide and smuggle military weapons, the IDF will attack the area, between the Egyptian border and the beach road.

For your safety and for the safety of your children – follow the instructions in this announcement.

There is one interesting story about the Hamas use of smuggled American weapons. According to reliable sources, Hamas acquired four stinger missiles from Egyptian smugglers in the Sinai Peninsula and tried to use them against Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Raytheon, producer of the Stinger, had installed identification friend/foe capabilities more than a decade ago. This prevents Stingers from being fired against any aircraft used by the U.S. military. A Hamas source complained:

We were disappointed by them. They were useless. Our gunners couldn't fire the weapon. A notice came up on the display saying “friendly aircraft.”

One Stinger surface-to-air missile was launched, but the projectile veered off course and struck a Hamas gunner squad. The Stinger was drawn by the heat of our guns rather than the engines of the Israeli helicopters. At that point, we stopped using this weapon.

The war quieted for the next few days as the United Nations, France and Egypt got involved in an attempt to stop the fighting. For three days Israel allowed food and medical supplies to enter the Gaza Strip under a 3-hour truce while there was limited fighting. Hamas continued to fire rockets and the Israelis made it clear there would be no peace unless a neutral occupying force policed the Gaza Strip to insure there would be no more secret arming of the Hamas militants. Israel slowly moved closer to Gaza City.

On 9 January, the Israel Defense Forces halted its air strikes, naval strikes and ground operations between 1300 and 1600. During that ceasefire they permitted the transfer of 80 humanitarian aid trucks loaded with medicine, medical supplies and basic food supplies into Gaza City together with 60 000 liters of fuel. During the humanitarian ceasefire they claim that four Grad rockets and two Qassam rockets were fired at southern Israeli cities and communities. 

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Hamas Defensive Map

Israel publicized a captured Hamas map on 9 January they said that depicted snipers positioned at the entrance of the A-Tawil mosque and in the mosques next to it. It indicates that explosives are planted in the entrances of civilian homes. The Israeli Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish said:

The important point is the disregard for human life in using entrances civilian homes. They booby-trapped the entrances of civilian houses with explosives put close to them; the objective is of course to hit our forces but a local explosion also damages the houses of the civilians and causes great damage, and likely killing civilians. Hamas prevents the distribution of the Israel Defense Forces cautionary leaflets that ask the civilian population to leave their houses. Although Israel Defense Forces make every possible effort not to harm civilians and only target Hamas members and terror operatives, Hamas prevents these things.

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Gazan holds the Latest Israeli Leaflet

On 10 January the Israeli Air Force dropped what they called a “general warning” leaflet, dropped on parts of Gaza City, the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and the south of the territory. The leaflet said Israel was about to begin a “new phase in the war on terror” and will "escalate" their military operation. The leaflets urged Gaza residents not to help Hamas and to stay away from its members. Israeli defense officials say they are prepared for a third stage of the offensive, in which ground troops would push much further into Gaza, and the army also has a fourth stage planned that calls for a full reoccupation of Gaza and toppling of Hamas. Some of the leaflet text is:

Residents of Gaza,

The Israeli military had in recent days warned residents of the southern city of Rafah of an imminent operation, and asking them to evacuate their homes for their safety.

The fact that the residents of Rafah abided by the orders has protected those who had nothing to do with the fight.

The Israeli Defense Force will soon escalate its operations against tunnels, weapons warehouses, terrorist infrastructure and terrorists all over the Gaza Strip. To keep yourself and your family safe, you are ordered to stay away from terrorist elements and from places where terrorist operations occur. Please continue abiding by our orders.

At the same time, The Israelis called residents of Gaza City saying:

We are going to intensify the military strike against Hamas. Our intention is not to harm civilians. If you live near Hamas, evacuate.

On 11 January there were reports of Israelis telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.

On 12 January the Jerusalem Post printed an article that stated that Israel believed that its leaflets dropped over Gaza during Operation Cast Iron warning civilians of impending air strikes and ground movements could help the army prove that it has not committed war crimes in Gaza. We don’t usually consider leaflets legal briefs to be used in court cases, but the Israelis expect a number of international lawsuits related to Operation Cast Iron and are prepared to use the warning leaflets in their defense.

For the next few days there was no report of leafleting by the Israelis, but they did publish a list of how many humanitarian deliveries had been made to Gaza each day and ran total for the war. For instance, on 14 January Israel stated that: 

While determined to confront Hamas terrorism, the humanitarian situation of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza is for Israel a top priority. Israel makes every effort to avoid a humanitarian crisis and cooperate and coordinate constantly and closely with the international humanitarian organizations. Currently there exists no such calamity - international aid groups have even asked that Israel briefly suspend shipments since there is no more room in their Gaza warehouses.

1,136 truckloads (over 26,000 tons) of humanitarian aid have been delivered to Gaza. Priority is given to humanitarian supplies in accordance with the needs raised by the international community and the Palestinian civil committee.

On 15 January there was talk of a 10-day cease fire as the Egyptians tried to broker a peace between Israel and the Gazans. Even as the talks went on, Israel started to push into Gaza City, the most heavily populated area of the strip.

For the second time, missiles were fired against the north of Israel from Lebanon as some organization, most likely Hezbollah, tried to open a second front to help the Gazans in the south. More than a dozen Katyusha rockets landed in northern Israel. The Israeli military said that it returned fire and that it viewed the Lebanese government and military as responsible to prevent such attacks.

On 16 January Israel and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding Between Israel and the United States Regarding Prevention of the Supply of Arms and Related Materiel to Terrorist Groups.

Israel had been called upon numerous times to stop its attack on Gaza but stated that it would not do so until there was an end to weapons being smuggled into the Strip. The memorandum discussed Israel’s demands and said in part:

The Parties will work cooperatively with neighbors and in parallel with others in the international community to prevent the supply of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations that threaten either party, with a particular focus on the supply of arms, related materiel and explosives into Gaza to Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

Ulrike Putz discussed Israeli propaganda in an article entitled “Psychological Tricks to Demoralize the Enemy” in Spiegel Online International on 16 January.  He stated that Israeli leaflets dropped over Lebanon in 2006 were poorly prepared but the leaflets disseminated in Gaza were much better:

But in the last two and a half years, Israel's army has learned a thing or two about psychological warfare. For one, they've captured the airways -- but for another, they've also improved their flyers. Pamphlets dropped on the Gaza Strip refrain from relying on simplistic propaganda images. Instead, they provide telephone numbers and e-mail addresses -- Palestinians can use them should they want to report the whereabouts of Hamas leaders or weapons caches…

…Israeli military speakers have for days been reporting that their generals in the field have observed scores of demoralized Hamas fighters deserting. The claim can't be confirmed -- but it definitely affects morale. It strengthens the Israeli population's will to continue; and in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli media is the main source of information, this message raises questions about whether Hamas may, in fact, be on its last legs.

On 18 January Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a ceasefire as he said in part:

Today, I spoke with the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who presented Egypt’s initiative to me, along with his request for a ceasefire. I thanked the President for Egypt’s commitment to finding a solution to this crisis and for the important role it plays in the Middle East. I presented the President’s statement to the Cabinet, along with the totality of our achievements in the operation, as well as the completion of the goals. The Cabinet decided to accept my proposal to declare a ceasefire.

Beginning at 2:00 a.m., Israel will cease its actions against the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip and will remain deployed in the Gaza Strip and its environs.

It must be remembered that Hamas is not part of the arrangements we came to. These are agreements involving many countries, and a terrorist organization like Hamas is not and need not be a part of them. If our enemies decide that the blows they have already suffered are not enough and they wish to continue fighting, Israel will be ready for that scenario and will feel free to continue responding with force.

On 25 January, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, expecting Israel to be charged with war crimes by the Arab states made what I would call a preemptive strike. He said in part:

I appointed Justice Minister Prof. Daniel Friedmann to chair an inter-ministerial team to coordinate the State of Israel's activity to provide a legal defense for those who took part in the military operation. Minister Friedmann will formulate answers to possible questions regarding IDF operations, which the self-righteous are liable to raise concerning the character of the Israeli fighting and its results. The soldiers and commanders who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals and that the State of Israel will assist them on this issue and defend them just as they bodily defended us during Operation Cast Lead.

As a moral army without peer, the IDF took care to act in accordance with international law and did its utmost to prevent harming civilians who were not involved in the fighting, including their property, and to this end, inter alia, distributed very many flyers and also used the local media and the local telephone network in order to deliver timely general and detailed warnings to the civilian population. The Government condemns and rejects the attempts to cast aspersions on the character of the IDF, its soldiers and commanders, and expresses its confidence in its norms and values.

On 27 January, Israel found itself under fire because an anti-war ex-military group calling itself  “Breaking the Silence” accused Brigadier-General Chief Rabbi Avi Ronzki of issuing a booklet to soldiers taking part in Operation Cast Lead entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War.

The booklet allegedly implied that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a good attribute. In one section, the booklet compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel. In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that “one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel.”

News of the existence of this booklet comes at a bad time as the Israelis prepare for legal attacks and have gone on record as saying that they did everything possible to assure that there would be few civilian deaths or injuries.

Hamas PSYOP

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Hamas Cell Phone Message

Hamas quickly retaliated. On 1 January there was a report of Hamas sending text messages to Israeli cell phones. Dozens of Israelis received text messages warning them that the offensive in Gaza will only bring about massive rocket fire on Israel. The text message read:

Rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you from the Qassam rocket - Hamas.

Jim Michaels adds in U.S.A. Today:

Yaniv Levyatan, a psychological warfare expert at the University of Haifa, said cell phones are a natural tool since soldiers and militants are generally young and have grown up using them. Israel and Gaza are both small, densely populated areas blanketed by wireless service, making the phones' use even more effective. Levyatan said the messages from Hamas to Israeli cell phones were generally crude and not targeted very well. “The Hebrew was terrible,” he said.

There were also reports that the al-Qassam Brigades, which is affiliated with Hamas, had managed to cut into Israeli military radio channels and broadcast statements in Hebrew warning Zionist soldiers against entering the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas military wing confirmed that Hamas wanted to warn the Israeli public against escalation in Gaza. It claimed that telephone messages and breaching the enemy's radio frequencies were just some of the surprises they had in store for Israel. They bragged of their military and technological capabilities. Remembering the Israelis unsuccessful 2006 incursion into Lebanon spokesman Abu Abir said:

The massacre inflicted on the Israeli tanks in the Second Lebanon War will repeat itself in the Strip.

Hamas also claimed to have broadcast messages on Israeli military walkie-talkies threatening to kidnap and kill Israeli soldiers.

There have also been reports of threatening text messages sent to the inhabitants of Israel's southern towns telling them to hide underground because Hamas is coming for them.

 

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An Injured Child in Gaza

Thousands of e-mails including the most horrific photographs of the Gaza Strip conflict were circulated in the Arab world. They also include photographs of dead Palestinian children, their small bodies completely destroyed. The captions read:

Zionists are Nazis

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Two of 31 propaganda pictures on an Arab website comparing Jewish actions in Gaza to Nazi actions during the Holocaust. Curiously, many Arabs deny the Holocaust, yet they are willing to use the term in their propaganda.

 

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Holocaust Victim

What is more interesting is that weeks after the picture of the little boy with wet pants was placed on the holocaust montage, other pictures of him appeared that clearly showed him throwing rocks at Israeli policemen.

Dr. Tal Pavel, an expert on use of the Internet for psychological warfare in the Middle East, says Hamas is using its Web sites to make comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. It portrays Israel as a destructive, oppressive regime afraid of Hamas rockets raining on Tel Aviv. Among the images on the sites is an Israeli Defense Force tank commander holding his severed head in hand, and a tank lying destroyed on its side.

Hackers took over hundreds of web sites. For instance, The site of Israel's main newspaper Yediot Ahronot was hacked. People who surfed to the paper's URL were redirected to a black page featuring anti-Israel propaganda and an Arab battle song. It took the newspaper at least half a day to regain control of its website.

On 5 January, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said in separate leaflets that their militants fired rockets at southern Israel and blew up more roadside bombs against Israeli soldiers. Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas armed wing, said in a leaflet that its militants fired several Russian-made rockets at Israeli army bases and towns in southern Israel, causing damages and injuries.

On January 8, The New York Times, the once great “Gray Lady” of publishing, admitted that they had printed pro-Palestinian propaganda. An “Op-Ed” article they published on misperceptions of Gaza included an unverified quotation.

A former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted as saying in 2002 that “the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.“ This quotation, while cited widely, does not appear in the Israeli newspaper interview to which it is usually attributed. Its original source has not been found, and thus it should not have appeared in the article.

The inflammatory words were attributed to Rashid Kalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and close friend of President Barack Obama, though it is possible that the fake quote goes back as far as 2003. The quote has been printed numerous times in anti-Israeli articles.

Commentary Magazine adds:

What is fairly certain is that this is yet one more example of an insensitive or incendiary comment falsely attributed to Israeli officials (one of the most notorious is the statement Ariel Sharon is supposed to have made regarding Israel’s control of Congress) and given eternal life in cyberspace for the comfort and edification of Israel’s enemies.

Hamas believes in the concept of “involuntary martyrdom” (getting civilians killed for the cause, even if they are unknowing). So civilians stay away from areas where the rockets are launched, and try to conceal the fact that rockets are hidden under their homes.

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Rockets and Missles Fired by Hamas into Israel

We should briefly mention the weapons of Hamas. Since 2001, Hamas has fired about 6,000 rockets against Israel.In addition, there have been about 4,000 mortar attacks. The Kassam I was first fired against Israel in 2001. It is 60mm in diameter, weighs twelve pounds and carries a one pound explosive charge. Its range is about three kilometers. In 2003 the Kassam II came online. It weighs 70 pounds, is 150mm in diameter and six feet long. It has a range of eight kilometers, and an 11-15 pound warhead. The Kassam III is 6.7 feet long, 170mm in diameter, with a range of about 12 kilometers, and a warhead of 22-44 pounds. There is also a Kassam IV, with a range of 15 kilometers, and missile called the Nasser 4, with a range of up to 20 kilometers.

Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas has several hundred factory made BM-21 rockets, each with a range of 20-40 kilometers. The 122mm BM-21s weigh 150 pounds and are nine feet long. These have 45 pound warheads. They also have some shorter range (six kilometers) B-12 rockets. The B-12 is a 107mm, 42 pound, Russian designed rocket that has a range of about six kilometers and three pounds of explosives in its warhead.

On 18 January, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire. Hamas, acting like a child that wanted to get the last word in, fired 10 rockets into southern Israel soon after the ceasefire took affect. Then, in imitation of “Baghdad Bob,” (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf) the Iraqi Minister of Information who claimed that Americans were in full retreat even as they entered Baghdad, Ayman Taha, a Hamas official, announced that Hamas had granted a ceasefire so that Israeli forces might vacate Gaza within a week.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki parroted the Palestinian claims stating that the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Zionist regime signified its defeat in the face of heroic resistance shown by the Gaza people.

On 19 January, there were reports of Hamas torturing and murdering members of the Opposition Fatah party on suspicion of “collaboration” with Israel during Operation Cast Lead.

The Fatah members and eyewitnesses said the detainees were being held in school buildings and hospitals that Hamas had turned into make-shift interrogation centers. A Fatah official in Ramallah said that at least 100 of his men had been killed or wounded as a result of the massive Hamas crackdown. Some had been brutally tortured, he added.  According to the official, at least three of the detainees had their eyes put out by their interrogators, who accused them of providing Israel with wartime information about the location of Hamas militiamen and officials.

Two Hamas officials, Salah Bardaweel and Fawzi Barhoum, accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his “spies” in the Gaza Strip of tipping off the Israelis about the movements of slain Hamas interior minister Said Siam, who was killed in an Israeli Air Force strike in Gaza City.

The Fatah official in Ramallah said that, apart from being baseless, the allegations were aimed at paving the way for a ruthless Hamas attack on Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip:

They were afraid to confront the Israeli army and many Hamas militiamen even ran away during the fighting. Hamas is now venting its anger and frustration against our Fatah members there.

A Fatah activist in Gaza City claimed that as many as 80 members of his faction were either shot in the legs or had their hands broken for allegedly defying Hamas's house-arrest orders:

What's happening in the Gaza Strip is a new massacre that is being carried out by Hamas against Fatah. Where were these Hamas cowards when the Israeli army was here?

Since Fatah has been fighting Hamas for control of Gaza these reports could be disinformation, but if true they point to more problems among the militant Palestinian leadership.

On 20 January, Arab nations claimed that Israel had used depleted ammunition during the three-week war. There had been previous claims that Israel had used white phosphorus during the brief war. The Geneva Convention of 1980 proscribes the use of white phosphorus as a weapon of war in civilian areas, although it can be used to create a smokescreen. The Israel Defense Forces replied that all weapons used in Gaza were "within the scope of international law." Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said in regard to the depleted uranium charges:

This is a particularly poor propaganda spin. These accusations have been raised in the past many times and have been proven groundless each time by independent investigators.

Hezbollah had made a similar claim about depleted uranium ammunition after the 2006 war, but investigators found no proof. Depleted uranium makes shells and bombs harder and increases their penetrating power. The U.S. and NATO have used uranium-depleted rounds in Bosnia and Iraq. They are particularly effective against heavy armor.

On 25 January, the Hamas leadership started paying the Gazans for the damage to their homes caused by the Israelis during the short war. This had first been done with great fanfare by Hezbollah in Lebanon after their 2006 war with Israel, and it is a powerful propaganda tool and an excellent photo opportunity. Hamas pledged $52 million of the group’s funds to help repair the Gaza Strip. Nobody knows exactly where the money comes from, but it is believed that the Muslim world and Iran contribute. The payment is $1,300 for a death in the family, $650 for an injury, $5,200 for a destroyed house and $2,600 for a damaged house. Hamas claims that more than 20,000 Palestinian houses have been either completely demolished or partially damaged during the war.

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Gaza Smugglers back at Work

One day after the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza Strip after a 26-day military campaign to destabilize the militant Islamist group Hamas and demolish the tunnels used to bring in weapons, Palestinian smugglers and tunnel diggers were back in business. The smugglers were clearing hundreds of tunnels that run beneath Egypt’s border with Gaza. Israel says it bombed 80 percent of the tunnels from the air. But television crews have already captured images of smugglers back at work, underlining Israel’s argument that international efforts have to be made to stop weapons before they are smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

On 29 January, some Gaza militants who apparently desired more Israeli bombing decided to break the truce by firing two homemade rockets from the Gaza Strip at southern Israeli towns in the vicinity of the enclave. The Al-Aqsa Brigades, Fatah movement's armed wing, said in a leaflet that its militants fired one rocket at the town of Ashkelon. Meanwhile, Israeli Radio reported that another rocket landed on Thursday morning on an opened area near the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Since Fatah has claimed responsibility for these rockets, it could be that they want to continue the war that killed so many their enemy Hamas fighters, or it could be a propaganda ploy to show the residents of the Gaza Strip that unlike Hamas, they are still willing to fight the Israelis. As might be expected, Israeli F16 warplanes then dropped two bombs at Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. No injuries are reported.

On 30 January, Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayeh emerged from hiding for the first time since the war began. He stood in front of the damaged Parliament Building and declared victory while more than 5,000 Hamas supporters cheered:

We thank God when we see our houses bombed and our institutions destroyed, but our people say yes to the resistance and yes to martyrdom for the sake of God. We say proudly that Gaza has won the war, the resistance has won the war, and Hamas has won the war.

Information or Disinformation?

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Candles during Daylight?

An interesting propaganda battle erupted between the two sides almost from the start of the conflict. It is impossible to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying. Probably, there is some truth and some lies on both sides. For instance, did the Israelis cut off electricity to the Gaza Strip? The Israelis say that they sent power and the Palestinians said they did not. There is some history of the Gazans stopping their own electricity for propaganda purposes. In one case they brought out school children holding candles in the street and invited the press to watch Hamas legislators work by candlelight, when the meeting was held in broad daylight and the curtains had been pulled over the windows to make it appear to be night time.

In defense of Hamas one reader told me:

Are you unaware that this is not propaganda, but that it has been noticed again and again by foreign journalists that cover events in Gaza and interview the leaders of Hamas, that the curtains are always drawn for security purposes? Israel will attack their perceived enemy at will so the officials of Hamas as well as some legislators do not announce their presence to the Israeli forces.

Have the Israelis stopped all fuel deliveries to Gaza. They say that they have sent humanitarian fuel into the strip; the Gazans say they did not. Once again, there is a history of the Palestinians using a fuel shortage for their own propaganda purposes. In the past they have purposely stopped fuel trucks, or confiscated the fuel for their own use. So, is the shortage real or contrived?

The fact that the Palestinians seem to have purposely caused shortages for their own people in the past does not mean they are doing so now. But we must ask ourselves if one side or the other is practicing disinformation.

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Rockets or Oxygen Cylinders?

The Israelis have also had problems with their propaganda operation. In one case, they placed a film on YouTube of a truck being loaded with rockets and then destroyed by missiles. The Gazans then came forward and said that the truck was being loaded with oxygen cylinders and it was not Hamas members that were killed, but instead, just laborers. Oxygen cylinders or deadly rockets? You decide.

Some people want it both ways. Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, head of the World Food Program for Gaza acknowledged that a significant amount of food was allowed in by the Israelis before the start of the air strikes. “But we must not forget this came after weeks when hardly any food had got in at all. One of our warehouses is full but we have another one empty as it is in an area which has seen a lot of bombings.” So the Israelis were either good for allowing food in, or bad for not allowing it in. You decide.

Conclusion

It appears that the Israelis learned valuable lessons regarding information dissemination and dealing with the media from their experience in the 2006 incursion into Lebanon. For instance, a National Information Directorate was set up to coordinate government and defense spokespeople in early 2008 following recommendations from an Israeli inquiry into the 2006 Lebanon war. Its role is to deal with hasbara - meaning, in Hebrew, “explanation.” The directorate organized various online websites, liaises over core messages with bodies such as friendship leagues, Jewish communities, bloggers and backers and even authorized a YouTube channel showing Israeli bombings in the Gaza strip. The directorate's chief, Yarden Vatikai, said:

The hasbara apparatus needed a body that would co-ordinate its agencies, coordinate the messages and become a platform for co-operation between all the agencies that deal with communication relations and public diplomacy.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said:

In the current war, coverage of psychological warfare has been off limits to journalists, unlike in the Second Lebanon War. In that conflict, media outlets reported on the army seizing television and radio stations, as well as dropping leaflets bearing caricatures of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

During the Lebanon war press conferences sometimes became shouting matches between generals and journalists. In 2006, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Israel Defense Force Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz came under severe criticism by the press, the public, and the Israeli political parties for their management of the war and comments they had made in regard to the strength of the enemy. Halutz resigned his position in January 2007 and Peretz followed in June 2007.

In the Gaza incursion, both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff kept a low profile and let trained people handle the media. The Ministry of Defense shielded field commanders from exposure to journalists. Soldiers were forbidden to carry mobile phones in the field. During the war in Lebanon in 2006, Israeli soldiers commonly carried their phones when they went onto the battlefield and regularly used them to call home or keep in touch with friends. The constant phone calls from the field became a security issue since Hezbollah militants had the capacity to listen in on conversations. In Gaza, soldiers have been ordered to leave their phones at their base.

Some troops were trained as Combat Cameramen and were able to photograph and document enemy positions such as Hamas weapons stored in mosques, rocket sites in school yards, booby-trapped residences and smuggling tunnels. The Combat Cameramen were also used to help document scenes that might lead to future accusations of war crimes.

Noah Shachtman mentioned the cameramen in Wired:

In Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces are pummeling targets they would normally never touch -- mosques, hospitals, schools. To justify their actions, many IDF units are employing combat videographers, photographers, or sound engineers, to do what the Israeli military calls “op­erational verification.” An Israel Defense Force officer said the Israeli mil­itary runs eight active-duty teams specially trained in documentation of ongoing operations. “Our aim is to document the story in real time while we still have a chance to influence public opinion. We show how the other side is making cynical use of its civilians by stor­ing weaponry in mosques, booby trapping the homes of its own peo­ple and using schools and hospitals as command centers."

It is difficult to end an article like this because even though the actual fighting is over, various terrorist groups will continue to fire the occasional rocket into Israel and of course the Israel Defense Force will then retaliate with a surgical bombing of some Hamas site. For weeks after the end of the occupation there were rumors that Hamas and Israel were going to sign a peace treaty. This was being forced on Gaza by other Arab states that wanted a return to the peaceful status quo. In early February, the rumor got stronger and reports of secret meetings appeared in the press. Then, like a dash of cold water, Prime Minister Olmert's Media Adviser sent out a statement that reminded everyone that Israel had new leaders being elected and was unlikely to sign any treaties during the changeover period. We can only hope this is disinformation:

In the wake of various reports from foreign sources to the effect that Israel is about to sign, as it were, a lull agreement with Hamas, we should like to clarify the following: Israel is not conducting any negotiations with Hamas and will certainly not reach any understandings with it…In any case, should a decision of any kind be required, it will be made only via a meeting of the Security Cabinet and after taking into account all of the new political circumstances that have been created in the wake of the recent Israeli elections.

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Just to show that some PSYOP stories never end; Gaza reported on 25 May 2009 that a 10-year-old Palestinian child was injured after being struck by an airdropped Israeli leaflet container. Israeli aircraft had dropped thousands of leaflets over Gaza warning residents to stay away from the border. There have been numerous clashes along the border recently and on several occasions the Israelis have bombed the smuggling tunnels. The boy lost consciousness and was hospitalized. The leaflets were written in Arabic and said in part:

You have been warned. We urge residents in the Strip to keep a 300-meter distance from the fence.

We should point out that this could be true or could be Gaza disinformation aimed at rousing international pressure to halt the Israelis from dropping their leaflets on Gaza.

Almost a full year after the end of hostilities, in September 2009, Israel and Hamas both rejected the findings of a highly critical United Nations inquiry into the war. The inquiry, headed by former South African judge Richard Goldstone accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said:

The mandate was biased from the beginning and it would have been a mistake to give credibility to a mission that has more in common with a kangaroo court than it does with a serious investigation. 

Hamas spokesman Ismail Haniyeh said:

The Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance were in a position of self-defense and not of attack. One cannot compare the simple capabilities of the resistance with the great strength of the occupation.

The inquiry rejected Israel's argument that the war was a response to Palestinian rocket fire and therefore an act of self-defense. It said that Israeli actions depriving Gazans of means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, and denying their freedom of movement could lead a competent court to find that the crime against humanity had been committed. It also said Palestinian rocket attacks did not distinguish between civilian and military targets, caused terror among Israeli civilians and would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.

A new form of psychological warfare originated in Gaza in October 2010, when for the first time the Jihadists made an Internet threat to the Israelis in the Hebrew language. A day after the Israeli Air Force killed a senior Army of Islam terrorist said to be plotting the kidnap of Israeli vacationers in Sinai, an al-Qaida affiliated group in Gaza known as Jemma Ansar al-Sunna (the Community of Sunna Supporters) issued the Hebrew-language audio threat:

In the name of Allah, the most merciful the most compassionate, this is our letter to the attacking Jews. The killing of our brothers won’t stop us from continuing the jihad and won’t give you security. Our rockets will continue if you don’t leave the land of Palestine. Know that your citizens won’t be safe anywhere.

Addendum

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On 16-17 July 2011, over two years after the end of the last leafleting of Gaza, Israeli Air Force F-16 fighters dropped leaflets over the strip. One leaflet was all text except for a drawing of the border area, the other was all text. The leaflets, written in Arabic and signed by the “Israel Defense Forces,” warned residents not to come near the border with Israel in the northern part of the territory. Some of the text is:

To the people of the strip! You have been warned, Israeli Defense Forces repeat their message alerting the prohibition of moving near the buffer zone, at a distance closer than 300 meters. Those who come nearby will be subject to danger, whereby the Israeli Defense Forces will take all necessary procedures to force him away, including the fire of live bullets if necessary, he who has alerted us shall be excused!

Note that the Israelis say that this is a “repeat” of a previous message. Two similar leaflets with different maps but almost identical messages were dropped over Gaza on 25 May 2009.

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Terrorists, Tunnel Owners and Smugglers

A second leaflet dropped by Israeli aircraft allegedly asked the residents of Gaza to report on their neighbors and warned of continued strikes, especially in northern areas. Some of the text is:

Terrorists, tunnel owners and smugglers of military equipment know very well that the continuation of terror acts, smuggling of military equipment and digging of tunnels is considered a constant target for further IDF operations, but they continue to operate in your place of residence and to assimilate among you.

The digging of tunnels from your homes or nearby and the smuggling of military equipment into the Strip by such terrorists puts your life in danger as well as your children, your families and your possessions. You must take responsibility for your future! You must call or email the following address and pass along information on the terrorists involved in this industry of death related to the tunnels.

In July 2011, militants believed to be from an extremist group known as Tawhid and Jihad fired about a dozen rockets into Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes that killed three people and wounded 10 others. In an attempt to calm the situation, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called on the militants in Gaza to accept an immediate halt in rocket attacks against Israel.

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Important Announcements…

In November 2012, the fighting flared up once again. This time the Israelis dropped leaflets that said:

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR THE RESIDENTS OF THE GAZA STRIP

For your own safety, take responsibility for yourselves and avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives and facilities and those of other terror organizations that pose a risk to your safety.

Hamas is once again dragging the region to violence and bloodshed. The IDF is determined to defend the residents of the State of Israel. This announcement is valid until quiet is restored to the region.

In addition, the Israel Defense Forces and the Hamas military Al Qassam Brigades went on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, instantly sharing photos, videos and news in English, so that they can reach the broadest possible audience.

The Israelis call the Operation “Pillar of Defense.” The operation is a widespread campaign against terror targets in Gaza and has two main goals: to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. They claim that as of mid-November more than 700 rockets have struck Israel since the beginning of the year.

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Evacuate your homes…

Several days later on 20 November, the Israelis dropped two sets of leaflets directing residents to use five specific roads to move out of their neighborhoods, which form a crescent around the southern half of the city center. The text on one leaflet said:

To the residents of Sheikh Ajlin, Tel Al-Hwa, Rimal South, Zeitoun, Sjaiya, Turkeman and Sajiya Jadida:

For your safety, you are required to evacuate your residences immediately and move towards the central Gaza city, via Al-Khara, Jma'at Al Dul Al Arabia, Al Aqsa Al Qudsiya, Um Alaimoun, Salah A-din, Al-Maqsurra, Hal's Mjdad.

In the central Gaza city, you are required to stay between the areas of Salah A-din from the west, Amar Al-Muchtar from the north, Al-Nasser from the east and Al-Quds St. from the south.

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Second warning leaflet

The second leaflet said:

To the residents of the outskirts of Shati, Al-Atatra, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun:

For your safety, you are required to evacuate your residences immediately and move towards central Gaza city via Al-Falujah, Al-Udda and Salah A-din. In the central Gaza city, you are required to stay between the roads of Salah A-din from the west, Amar Al-Muchtar from the north, Al-Nasser from the east and Al-Quds St. from the south."

Additional text on one or both of the leaflets is:

The Israeli forces are not aiming at any of you and don't want to hurt any of your family members. This is a temporary confrontation. In the end, everyone will go home. In keeping with Israel Defense Forces regulations, all civilians will be kept from harm's way.

One Gaza resident was quoted:

Based on what they're saying on this leaflet, there's going to be a ground incursion. The last war we didn't listen to the leaflet and we suffered a lot. We want to evacuate before the incursion starts to protect ourselves.

Hamas told the people of Gaza to ignore the leaflets.

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Dead Child Killed by Hamas used as Palestine Propaganda

Once again the press was caught with their pants down as BBC war correspondent Jon Donnison tweeted a photo of an injured girl lying on a stretcher, saying it was taken in Gaza with the terms “heart-breaking” and “pain in Gaza.” It turned out to be disinformation and the photograph actually showed a female wounded in Syria by her fellow Syrians. A few days later CNN was also fooled by a photograph of a dead Palestinian child. CNN claimed the child was killed by an Israeli rocket, when in fact it was killed by a Hamas rocket that fell short. Breibart said:

Hamas has a well-established pattern of faking civilian deaths in Gaza, even as it seeks civilian deaths in Israel. Last week, Breitbart News caught Hamas using a month-old photo of a dead Syrian boy and claiming he had been killed by Israel--a double irony, since the Assad regime that killed the boy hosted Hamas for years before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

This article is meant to be just a quick look at the PSYOP aspects of the Israel-Hamas struggle. Readers with comments are encouraged to write to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.