Protesters claiming to be part of the Anonymous movement decried the Nov. 14 attacks by the Israeli military against the Hamas leadership allegedly responsible for hundreds of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and offered their help to keep Palestinians online and reporting on their situation.
In an online statement, Anonymous warned the Israel Defense Force (IDF) not to cut off Palestinians in Gaza from being able to get their message out to the world, although it’s unclear whether the IDF actually threatened to do so. Initial reports indicated that the most recent rocket attacks against Israel resulted in the deaths of three civilians, while Israel's counterattack, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, had killed 14.
"To the people of Gaza and the 'Occupied Territories,' know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight," the statement read. "We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world."
The online protest, dubbed "OpIsrael," came after Israel launched attacks against Hamas leaders in Gaza in retaliation for the more than 100 missile and rocket attacks sent into Israel in the past week. Hamas has launched more than 500 rockets and missiles into Israel territory in 2012, according statistics compiled by the Israeli government.
"Hamas and the terror organizations decided to escalate their attacks on the citizens of Israel over the last few days," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "We will not accept a situation in which Israeli citizens are threatened by the terror of rockets. No country would accept this, Israel will not accept it."
Early in the morning on Nov. 15, a post allegedly from Anonymous supporters criticized Israel for the attacks. At the same time, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks began targeting the Websites of the Israel Defense Force and the Prime Minister's office as well as Israeli banks, airlines and infrastructure companies, according to security firm Radware.
"Today, every political conflict has a cyber-component," said Ronen Kenig, director of product marketing for Radware. "If the attackers take down the IDF Website, nothing will be affected in terms of the military, but it becomes part of the political conflict."
Anonymous is not a single group, but a movement espousing a chaotic mixture of principles, matching its amalgam of supporters. While Anonymous has helped dissidents remain online in many Middle Eastern countries and has supported the cause of Wikileaks, its supporters have also embraced their inner pranksters, pointing out security issues in large companies by compromising their systems and leaking the information online.
On Nov. 15, members of the movement softened the original statement, claiming not to be taking a side on the conflict.
"Anonymous does not support violence by the IDF or by Palestinian Resistance/Hamas," said a second statement posted to PasteBin. "Our concern is for the children of Israel and Palestinian Territories and the rights of the people in Gaza to maintain open lines of communication with the outside world."