An Israeli propaganda war?

Lebanese claim to receive strange anti-Hizbullah phone calls and televised messages.

lebanese civilians 88 (photo credit: )
lebanese civilians 88
(photo credit: )
"Hassan," said the deep voice on the phone, "have you realized yet that the Israeli army is not as delicate as a spider's web? It's a web of steel that will strangle you!" The "Hassan" being addressed was Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, but the message was for all Lebanese. The automated, recorded calls have flooded Lebanese telephones since the war began 27 days ago. Phone calls with recorded messages slam Hizbullah. Hizbullah's television stations are jammed with warnings to the group's members. It seems Israelis are everywhere - not just on the ground in south Lebanon or the skies or on ships off the coast. The Israeli army has refused to confirm that it was behind the calls that Lebanese throughout the country started to receive soon after the hostilities began July 12. But most Lebanese assume Israel is sending them. "This is the beginning of the cellular phone war between Israel and Hizbullah," wrote Ahmed Mughrabi, a reporter for Al-Hayat newspaper who received the "Hassan" call. Typically, the calls start coming in the afternoon and quite frequently in the middle of the night. A "0000" number flashes on the phone screen, indicating an overseas call. The voice on several other recorded messages is identical to the one on the "Hassan" message, and they deliver the same anti-Hizbullah line. "This is the state of Israel," said one message that urged Lebanese to end their support for Hizbullah. "This resistance ... is forcing you to stay at home like rats." Another posed questions: "Who is it that's putting your life in danger? Who is using you as human shields?" During a recent prime time newscast on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV that was airing a footage of Nasrallah, viewers suddenly saw "Hizbullah members beware" splashed across the screen, the words running over the guerrilla leader's black turban. They also flashed a picture of the body of a dead man sprawled on his back with a caption claiming it was a Hezbollah's special forces fighter. "Nasrallah is lying to you. We're not the ones hiding our losses," said another caption. Ibrahim Farhat, head of public relations at Al-Manar, dismissed the incident, saying Israel has been jamming and hacking into Al-Manar and other satellite stations almost every day, especially in coastal areas. There have also been Lebanese claims of Israelis popping up in tiny, remote villages. Al-Massira magazine said an Israeli airborne force consisting of dozens of troops landed in the village of Shabrouh near a dam project in the Christian heartland of Kesrouan one recent night. The soldiers, equipped with the latest night-vision technology, spent three hours inspecting tunnels and pipes. The magazine said the troops apparently were looking for Hizbullah rocket launchers. "The Shabrouh operation has become the talk of town, spreading from house to house," said Al-Massira. But neither the government nor Hizbullah has commented on the alleged incident.