Hamas military wing Izzadin Kassam ostensibly sent threatening text messages to foreign correspondents, parliamentary aides and other Israelis Saturday night.
“Al-Qassam has chosen you to be The next Shalite [sic]...Be Ready,” one message read, referring to Gilad Schalit, the soldier whom Hamas held captive for five years.
Other messages, written in grammatically incorrect Hebrew, read “if Gaza is attacked, then the life of the Zionists will be hell” and “Kassam promised revenge and there was revenge. The account is not over, the worst is yet to come.”
Some of the messages were sent from Palestinian cellphone numbers, beginning with 059.
A fourth message, also in pidgin Hebrew, referred to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, assassinated by Israel in 2004: “Israel established the injustice and the occupation and the fate of every entity of injustice and occupation is destruction...the Shaheed [“martyr”] Ahmed Yassin.”
The same text with the reference to Yassin was sent to everyone who subscribed to the Israel Defense website at the same time as the text messages, seemingly undermining reports that the messages are a phishing scam, in which everyone who called or sent an SMS to the number was charged for doing so.
Many of the people who received the message, including Eyal Shviki, aide to opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), and Washington Post correspondent and former Jerusalem Post reporter Ruth Eglash, posted images of them on Facebook, and found that many of their colleagues had similar experiences.
Eglash said of the messages: “I was confused when I first received them and thought they were directed only at me. At first I tried to call the number, but just got a weird buzzing sound.”
Reporters like Jonah Mandel of AFP and Batsheva Sobelman of the Los Angeles Times commented on Eglash’s post confirming that they, too, received similar messages.
The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren received the messages and tried calling the phone numbers.
“When I thought it was only coming to me, I planned to call Orange and perhaps the police today [Sunday] to trace the numbers, but [New York Times correspondent] Isabel [Kershner] got one shortly after... and Emily Harris of NPR, and then it was all over Facebook and the news, so I see no reason to report it” to the police, Rudoren explained.
The Foreign Press Association condemned the messages, writing: “This is unacceptable. Journalists are not part of the Middle East conflict. They are observers who should be treated as such. The FPA calls on the Hamas government to take steps to guarantee this never happens again.”