The IDF was forced to cancel a recent arrest operation in the West Bank after a soldier posted information about the upcoming raid on his Facebook page.

The operation was scheduled to take place several weeks ago in the Binyamin region. The soldier, from an elite unit of the Artillery Corps, posted on his Facebook page: “On Wednesday, we are cleaning out [the name of the village] – today an arrest operation, tomorrow an arrest operation and then, please God, home by Thursday.”

The status update on the soldier’s page was revealed by other members of the soldier’s unit. His commanders then updated Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who decided to cancel the operation out of concern that the mission had been compromised.

The raid eventually took place, several days later, and was successful. The soldier, who had updated his Facebook page with his cellular phone, was disciplined by his commander, sentenced to 10 days in jail and kicked out of his unit.

Following the incident, the IDF’s Information Security Unit published a letter in which it warned soldier of the danger involved in publishing sensitive military information on Facebook.

“Enemy intelligence scans the Internet in search of pieces of information about the IDF. Information that could sabotage operations and endanger our forces,” the letter read.

Following a number of recent incidents involving the publication on Facebook of pictures that displayed sensitive military information, the Information Security Unit has launched a comprehensive public relations campaign aimed at educating soldiers about the risks involved in posting information on the social media site.

In April 2008, a soldier from Military Intelligence’s 8200 Unit, which is responsible for collecting signal intelligence and code decryption, was sentenced to 19 days in prison for uploading a picture onto Facebook that revealed sensitive military information.

Lt.-Col. Eyal, deputy commander of the Information Security Unit, said that tens of thousands of soldiers and officers are on Facebook and other social media Web sites. There were a “handful” of cases in 2009 in which the IDF intervened and ordered soldiers to remove specific items from the sites.

“Soldiers need to be smart with their use of these sites,” Eyal said, adding that the Information Security Unit was considering issuing an official military order to clarify the type of information that soldiers are permitted to post on the Internet.

Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, Eyal said, were tracking IDF soldiers on Facebook.

“We see more activity among enemies on the Internet,” he said. “All one needs is Internet access and to search for a few key words and begin collecting intelligence.”

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