Shortly after the IDF launched the first strike of Operation Pillar of Defense, killing Hamas senior official Ahmed Jabari in response to hundreds of rockets shot from Gaza into southern Israel, the IDF twitter account released a message: The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror operatives in the Gaza Strip, chief among them Islamic Jihad targets.
Thus began what many called the first war to be declared on twitter. The point is arguable, but the fact is that both the IDF, twitter name @IDFSpokesman, and Hamas, tweeting as @AlqassamBrigade, have put a lot of time and energy into the micro-blogging platform, with the latter responding to the former's tweets.
The IDF tweeted a photo of Jabari with the word "eliminated" emblazoned across it and a description of his activities: "Planned multiple terrorist attacks that killed Israeli civilians, commanded the operation to kidnap Gilad Shalit, ordered Palestinian terrorists to fire thousands of rockets at Israel."
"We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders show their faces above ground in the days ahead," the IDF tweeted last Wednesday, posting an IAF video of Jabari's targeted killing.
Hamas responded by saying Israel "opened the Hell Gates on itself," and that the terrorist group will reach Israeli "leaders and soldiers wherever they are."
Following the Tel Aviv bus bombing
on Wednesday, Hamas put out a reminder tweet: "We told you #IDF…you opened the gates of hell on yourselves."
"Oh Zionists," Hamas tweeted. "Netanyahu's government [is] dragging you for hell, you have the choice to stay in hell or escape, go back home in Germany [sic]."
Another tweet suggested Poland, Russia and America as places for the Zionists to "drag [themselves] out of hell."
As the days of the operation went on, the IDF proved itself to have hard-working graphic artists, tweeting infographic after infographic.
One graphic pointed out that before bombing a target, the IDF calls, drops leaflets - which were depicted in another infographic - and non-lethal "roof-knocking" bombs, and aborts airstrikes in order to avoid harming civilians. "What has Hamas done to minimize harm to civilians in Israel? Nothing," the graphic stated.
Another graphic showed maps of the US, France and the UK, showing how much of those countries would be in danger if 45 percent of their populations were under fire, with the question: What would you do?
The IDF has also taken to twitter to post videos of members of the Spokesman's Unit talking about the operation to the media, like CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer's interview with IDF Spokesperson to International Press Maj. Avital Leibovich, and linked to blog posts with details and background.
In addition, the IDF twitter account has explained and defended operations in recent days, such as the bombing of a media building in Gaza.
"The Hamas terrorists weren't in the media building to be interviewed. They were there to communicate with field operatives and plan attacks," the IDF Spokesperson tweeted, followed by: "Warning to reporters in Gaza: Stay away from Hamas operatives and facilities. Hamas, a terrorist group, will use you as human shields."
Hamas responded with a warning to Israelis: "Stay away from Israeli IDF. We are just targeting Israeli soldiers, fighter jets, tanks and bases."
Since the beginning of the operation last week, Hamas has continued to tweet prolifically, describing shells it has launched at Israel, their sources and their targets. Many of the targets tweeted by Hamas, for example, the Knesset, were not actually hit.
Photos of bloody Gazans with captions blaming the carnage on Israel, are common on the Hamas twitter feed, though many come from other conflicts.
For example, Hamas tweeted a photo of a weeping father with his dead, bloody child in his arms last Thursday, but soon after, followers pointed out that the photo was taken at the Dar al-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, Syria, and originally came from a slideshow on The Guardian website. The tweet was deleted soon after it was posted online.
Still, not all of Hamas' online bravado was false.
At 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hamas tweeted that they "penetrated" Israeli Channels 2 and 10, posting a video with the message in Hebrew: "A signal for soldiers in the Zionist tanks, you remember." A tank was seen exploding on the screen, which then switched to Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz talking on Channel 2 news. Ynet reported receiving dozens of complaints about the video from owners of private satellite dishes.
Meanwhile, an anonymous twitter account called @HamasGlobalPR sarcastically worked to clear Hamas' name.
"Some little known Gates of Hell facts: a) Have opened 507 times over the last five years, b) lubricated with goats milk, c) can withstand heat of 235c," one tweet read.
Another tweet said people call Hamas anti-Jewish "but note that between executing collaborators and missile misfires, we've killed more Muslims than Jews."