Israeli military 'tricks' Hamas with vague media statement on Gaza offensive
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Israeli : Early Friday, just after midnight, the Israeli military put out an ominous statement to the media: “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip. The vaguely worded statement set off frenzied speculation that Israel had launched a ground invasion of Gaza a much-feared scenario that would mark a bloody escalation of this week’s operation against Hamas militants. Some reporters were even told outright the incursion had begun.
Hours later, the military issued a “clarification.” There were no troops inside Gaza. But by then, several major news outlets had erroneously reported the ground offensive was underway. While the army attempted to play down the incident as a misunderstanding, well-placed Israeli military commentators said the media had been used as part of an elaborate ruse to lure Hamas militants into a deadly trap that may have killed dozens of fighters. “They didn’t lie,” said Or Heller, a veteran military correspondent on Israel’s Channel 13 TV. “It was a manipulation. It was smart and it was successful.”
” Late on Thursday, after days of airstrikes, Israel announced it was calling up thousands of reservists and amassing troops along the border ahead of a possible ground invasion. In another sign of escalation, Israel began firing artillery shells across the border at targets inside Gaza, according to residents.
In previous rounds of fighting, ground incursions have resulted in widespread destruction in Gaza and heavy casualties on both sides. That set the stage for the late-night deception. According to Heller, Israel began scrambling forces along the border in what appeared to be final preparations for an invasion. Then came the announcement to the media, issued simultaneously in Hebrew and Arabic on Twitter. There followed alerts in major outlets, including the New York Times, that the invasion was underway. The Israeli moves sent Hamas fighters rushing into defensive positions in an underground network of tunnels known as “the Metro,” according to Heller and other Israeli reports. Israel called in 160 warplanes and bombarded the tunnels for 40 minutes, the military said. Heller said it was his understanding that scores of militants had been killed, though he said it was impossible to say. “What we saw tonight was a very sophisticated operation that had a media aspect to it,” Heller said. Hamas has not commented on the incident, and it was impossible to confirm the Israeli reports. Heller said veteran Israeli correspondents, who have close ties to the military and in many cases have served themselves, knew that there was no way Israel was sending troops across enemy lines at this stage. Heller and other military correspondents even put out statements on Twitter assuring the jittery public that there was no ground operation. The Associated Press, based on its analysis of the army’s statement, phone calls to military officials, and on-the-ground reporting in Gaza, concluded there was no ground incursion and did not report there was one.
But others said the military had misled them or even lied when asked to clarify the initial statement and its ambiguous use of the word “in.” Some felt the foreign media had been turned into an accessory of sorts.
Felicia Schwartz, the correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, said she alerted news of a ground offensive after receiving explicit confirmation from Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman. In a statement posted on Twitter, she said Conricus “told me directly, `There are ground troops in Gaza.’ That was the basis for a first story saying so. He retracted that statement two hours later and I changed the story to reflect that, and that is noted in the text and will be corrected.”