On Friday, Israel Defence Forces pulled off a stunning tactical operation by using global media outlets to lure Hamas terrorists into a deadly trap inside Gaza, only to neutralise them by carrying out airstrikes later in the day.
A few days back, it was widely reported that Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had carried out surprise airstrikes on Hamas underground network of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, which is popularly known as the “Metro”, hours after threatening a ground invasion. In a typical Israeli deception, on Friday Israel Defence Forces had put out a statement to the media, saying, “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip”.
The vaguely worded tweet created a massive panic in Gaza, leading the Hamas terrorists to run away from the battleground to hide in their defensive positions in an underground network of tunnels known as “Metro”.
While Hamas was girding itself for a ground invasion from the Israeli forces by sending its operatives inside the tunnel and planning a surprise attack on them, the anticipated ground offence never took place. Instead, Israel caught Hamas off-guard when it launched an aerial attack targetting these tunnels. Israel had deployed its 160 warplanes and bombarded these tunnels for over 40 minutes.
Israel used Western media to lure Hamas terrorists
According to the latest media reports, the Israel Defence Forces tactically used Western media outlets such as Associated Press, Washington Times and New York Times to lure Hamas troops into strategic tunnels that were later bombarded by the Israeli Air Force.
In what seems to be one of the greatest tactical manoeuvres, Israel put out its vague tweet of carrying out ground attacks on Gaza hoping that the Hamas-sympathetic western media outlets would pick up this information. As expected, most of the news outlets jumped all over it, assuming that Israel was sending ground forces into the enclave in a major escalation. In fact, to convince these western media outlets, the Israeli Defence Forces called up thousands of reserve forces to position them along the border.
Expectedly, the news of the ground offensive was quickly lapped up by the western media outlets, who foreboded that the conflict is all set to devolve into a major escalation. Media across the globe started reporting that Israeli forces are preparing to invade the Gaza Strip. In reality, it was just a decoy pulled by the IDF to lure Hamas into a trap. Although the IDF had deployed forces along the border, they did not cross into Gaza. It was a cunning strategy used by the IDF to box Hamas into a corner.
Here is the Washington Post report on the decoy ground attacks by IDF:
“Israeli troops have entered the Gaza Strip as conflict with Palestinians escalates, Israeli military says,” the Washington Post said in a tweet shortly after the IDF posted its tweet.
Even New York Times fell for the trap set by Israel Defence Forces.
Similarly, Wall Street Journal declared “Israel Begins Ground Operations Against Hamas in Gaza” in its headline.
Even though the Israeli forces didn’t cross the border, the international media was misled to report that a ground invasion has already begun in Gaza. Although later Israel clarified that the ground forces didn’t enter Gaza, it was too late, as mote media houses had already reported that Israel has attacked Gaza with ground forces crossing the border.
Trusting the reports put out by these Western media, the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad retreated to defensive positions. As Israel had expected this to happen, they wasted no time. Soon, the Israeli Airforce carried out precision strikes on these tunnels to eliminate most of the Hamas terrorists.
Israel denies misleading media
However, the Israeli military has denied deliberately misleading the media, saying it was a ‘misunderstanding’. On Saturday, Israel Defence Forces Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman denied intentionally misleading the media, and said that it was a an honest mistake made by the military. “I have personally conducted a comprehensive investigation into this matter and concluded that the officer involved, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, made an honest mistake in his conveying of the reality on the ground,” he said.
“Despite conspirational reports to the contrary in both international and Israeli press, this was not some elaborate attempt to manipulate the media in order to achieve a tactical victory. By definition and our guiding belief system, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit does not engage in psychological warfare and is tasked with conveying only the truth to the public, a mission we have devotedly undertaken for more than seven decades,” he added.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who had talked about the ground invasion, later held a phone briefing with foreign journalists, and he apologized for misleading them and described the incident as a mistake that happened due to the “fog of war.”
Journalists don’t believe it was a mistake
Even though the Israeli military denied it, sources in the military have confirmed that it was a part of an elaborate plan to lure the Hamas militants into a trap inside their tunnels. First, the Military clearly said that Israeli ground forces are already inside Gaza, but later retracted that. Therefore, the possibility of being a misunderstanding is slim. And, while the military was denying, Israeli media was publishing stories about how the military fooled Hamas by releasing misleading information to the international media followed by Hamas.
Moreover, even though the military tried to play it down, the international journalists are not willing to believe that it was a mistake and not an elaborate ploy. WSJ’s Israel and Palestine correspondent Felicia Schwartz said that IDF had informed them about the ground attack, and they had published the report on that basis. She said that later IDF retracted the earlier statement saying that although ground forces were attacking Gaza, they had not crossed the border, and the report was being updated to reflect that.
Felicia Schwartz also said that IDF’s international spokesperson Jonathan Conricus had directly told her that “there are ground troops in Gaza”, and that was the basis of her report. The WSJ report was updated later accordingly.
An American journalist based in Israel said that the incident “will not help” Israel’s relationship with international media. The journalist said that it it looks awfully transparent that it was a deliberate ploy, adding, “the idea that they misled people only in English, that Conricus personally said it was so, without any caveats or promises to check, and the timing right before a big attack on the tunnels.”
Or Heller, a veteran military correspondent on Israel’s Channel 13 TV, said, “it was a manipulation. It was smart and it was successful.”
Hamas was waiting for ground attack, deployed offensive ground forces
Hamas had meticulously built an underground network of tunnels called the “Metro” over the years after the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. The network is a labyrinth of dozens of kilometres of tunnels that crisscrosses Gaza and provides safety from Israeli aerial incursions.
The terror organisation had sent its anti-tank missile teams and mortar squads into the tunnel to strike at incoming Israeli ground forces. However, little did they know that they were tricked into entering the tunnel by the Israelis, who scrambled a fleet of 160 aircraft to bomb them. Once the terrorists of Hamas were inside the tunnels, they were targeted by Israeli aircraft.
The air strike lasted nearly 40 minutes, around 450 missiles were dropped from 160 planes on 150 targets in northern Gaza, particularly around the city of Beit Lahiya. Within minutes, the “Metro” was ravaged killing a large number of Hamas terrorists.
Meanwhile, the western media are now lamenting against Israel’s impressive tactical operations, claiming that Israel Defence Forces manipulated them to carry out counter-terror attacks against Hamas. The media outlets accused Israel military of misleading them by lying to them when asked to clarify about their so-called ground attacks. Some felt that the foreign media was turned into an accessory of sorts by Israel security forces.