As the Israeli army rains shells on the Gaza strip Thursday, it’s also gone on the offensive online, posting videos of its attacks on Hamas targets and live-tweeting its campaign. Now the hacker group Anonymous has responded with a digital bombardment of its own.
In a series of attacks it’s calling “OpIsrael,” Anonymous went on a spree of website defacement and takedown attacks Thursday, calling on members to flood forty sites with junk web traffic designed to knock them offline and defacing websites including the privacy firm Israeli Security Academy and a blog the group described as belonging to the Israeli Defense Forces. “We Anonymous will not sit back and watch a cowardly Zionist State demolish innocent people’s lives.” reads one message posted to a defaced site, along with an image of smoke rising over what appears to be a Palestinian city.
Perhaps a bit hyperbolically, the message added that “We have taken down your top security and surveillance website.”
Another message on a hacked site attributes the attack to Pakistani Anonymous hackers: “The people of Pakistan are always supporting the brave people of Gaza, we love you!”
Anonymous Twitter accounts provided links to what they described as an Anonymous Gaza Care Package with tools for staying online if Israel cuts Internet service the Gaza Strip during its military action. Another hacker group, Telecomix, provided its own detailed instructions in English and Arabic for using dial-up connections, a technique it first suggested during the Egyptian Internet outage surrounding the Arab Spring protests there last year.
“To the people of Gaza and the “Occupied Territories”, know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight,” reads a press statement from the hacker group. “We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world.”
Gazan and Israeli forces have traded volleys of fire over the last day, inflicting damage on both military and civilian targets. By CNN’s latest count, three Israelis and 13 Palestinians had died as a result of the conflict.
Anonymous’ attacks, as usual, achieve more as propaganda than in actual damage. Most of its target sites seem to have remained online, and several downed and defaced sites seemed like random low-hanging fruit: A manufacturing an export company and a real estate law firm, for instance.
But the online attacks draw attention to the Gazan side of an information war in which Israel has been unusually aggressive: In the days leading up to its attack, the official Israeli Defense Force twitter feed has provided a constant stream of messages about its offensive in the region as well as Israeli civilian and military casualties caused by Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. Its tweets have linked to aerial videos posted to YouTube, showing the assassination of a Hamas leader and the bombing of what the IDF described as a “rocket warehouse.” By the IDF feed’s latest count, it had attacked 250 terrorist sites in retaliation for 274 rockets launched from Gaza, in addition to 105 intercepted by its “Iron Dome” missile defense system.
In one message, a popular Anonymous account offered its gratitude to the IDF for riling so many hackers with its public tweets about the conflict. “We may need to thank [the IDF twitter account],” the message read. “You bonded a lot of Anons together again. Gaining Momentum