On the evening of March 22, journalists living and working in Israel, including this reporter, received a text message on their cell phones from a most unexpected source: the terrorist organization Hamas. It read: “Al Qassam has chosen you to be the next Shalite” (Shalit), a reference to Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was abducted to Gaza in 2006 and held captive for more than five years.
An additional text message was sent in bad Hebrew that said, “If Gaza is attacked, then the life of the Zionists will be hell.”
Meanwhile, an email message from the same source was received purporting to be from the “Israel Defense” website reminding that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated ten years earlier and that his death would be avenged. Some of the text messages also warned Israelis of Qassam rockets, followed by the warning: “If you want life, leave this country.”
Hamas activists are believed to hacked into the news website, “Israel Defense,” which is available in both English and Hebrew. The following message was posted there: “Ten years ago, Zionist Helicopters launched three missiles, killing our beloved Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as he leaves the mosque after morning prayers. This is to remind you that we don’t forget the blood of our sheik. We swear again to take revenge, and this time by taking off the head of your leaders.”
At least two of the messages were sent from a telephone number whose area code was once used by career Israeli army officers. The area code was provided by the communications firm MIRS, but was canceled after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) switched carriers. IDF sources said the military had information on which cell phone users received the threatening messages. The numbers were for phones that belong to individuals who had registered for a conference on cybersecurity organized by “Israel Defense,” an indication that the hackers were able to access registrants’ personal information that included their cell phone numbers.
Other journalists who received the text messages from Hamas included New York Times bureau chief Jodi Rudoren and correspondents of the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. Ruth Eglash, the Post’s correspondent, said she tried calling the number to the phone from which the text messages had been sent but got a buzzing sound.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned "in the strongest of terms" the text messages purportedly sent by Hamas to hundreds of Israeli cell phone users, including dozens of journalists.
The association, which represents international media in Israel, claims the threats sent to phones included "direct threats to our members including one from 'kill you' that said 'Hamas ... In the next war all of Palestine will be returned,’' and one from a phone number beginning with the digits 057 that said 'Al-Qassam has chosen you to be the next Shalite ... Be Ready.’