'Hello, this is the Israeli Army calling'

The air and ground attacks on Gaza have been widely reported, but there is a psychological war going on that has hardly been mentioned. The Israeli army calls Palestinian citizens on a regular basis to warn them against dealing with Hamas. MENASSAT's Ola Madhoun talked to people in Gaza about Israel's phone offensive.
israel phone

GAZA, January 8, 2008 (MENASSAT) - Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead on December 27, Palestinians have been receiving phone calls from the Israeli army almost daily, warning them against dealing with Hamas, and asking them to provide information about people involved in the movement. 

Gazans are also saying that many of the phone calls are an attempt to make them believe that the Israeli army would completely destroy Hamas in their assault on Gaza.

“They were warning us against dealing with terrorist organizations such as Hamas and asked us to stay away from them,” Hajj Suleiman Qadada, 40, told MENASSAT.

According to psychologists working in the Strip, these calls spread fear and panic among some Palestinians, while others see these attempts at psychological warfare as pathetic and a clear sign of Israel’s eventual defeat.

Political analysts say these methods have been popular since Word War Two, and are part of the psychological war Israel has launched in an attempt to confuse Palestinians and lessen the general support of armed resistance against Israel.

A sign of Israeli defeat

Qadada said he received a phone call after midnight during the first week of Israeli bombing from a man identifying himself a member of the Israeli army. Qadada said that the call seemed to be taped.

“I can’t deny I was afraid. But what I fear now is to get another call, this time to inform me that my house will be bombed and that I have to leave immediately. The Israeli bombs no longer differentiate between us, we are all targets now,” Qadada said.

Randa Saysalem, an Egyptian married to a Palestinian in Gaza, also said she was afraid after receiving a late night call from the Israeli military.

“I was trying to sleep after 10 nights of insomnia with my husband and children, when the phone rang," she told MENASSAT.

"I answered and was surprised to hear someone saying in poor Arabic: ‘this is the Israeli army. We inform you that we won over Hamas and destroyed them in Gaza."

Mohammad Hamada said he received the same phone call, but he said he thought it was a joke.

“We all know that Hamas wasn’t significantly harmed during this violent Israeli offensive and that all the dead and injured are civilians. The resistance is leading a fierce battle with the occupation forces invading Gaza. The Israeli army spokesperson admitted that the soldiers had many surprises while battling the Palestinian resistance,” Hamada said.

Nothing new to Palestinians

Political analyst in Israeli affairs, Hani Habib, said these phone calls are not a sign of confusion as some think.

He said in a phone call with MENASSAT that what Israel is doing is nothing new.

“It plays a major role in psy-ops (psychological operations), which is much more important for the occupation of a country than the effective war itself,” he said.

“But it (psy-ops) is important because an occupation army will not succeed in destroying the resistance unless it uses psychological means, including calling the citizens and affecting the general opinion.”

Israel is following two policies in its current war in Gaza: sabotaging the media by destroying local radio and TV stations broadcasting from Gaza, and making these calls to landlines and cellular phones in an attempt to draw down public morale.

But Habib said that Israel knows these techniques are not useful in isolating the resistance because they have been used in previous wars and are well known among Gazans. 

“And this time is no exception.”