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Israel confirms Gaza military campaign on Twitter first

    Even as initial reports of Operation Pillar of Defence were filtering through, it was pointed out that this could be the first time an official military campaign had been confirmed on Twitter.

    And within hours of the strike on Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, a war of words was taking place on the social networking site between the IDF Spokesperson account and that of the Al Qassam brigades.

    The IDF account, which is updated regularly, posted more than 16 updates in the five hours after Jabari was killed, including photographs and YouTube links. Early on it confirmed that "the #IDF started an operation against the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing attacks against #Israeli civilians".

    Pundits noted that the Twitter announcement was made at 2.30pm GMT, before the circulation of any other press statement informing of the start of an official action.

    The Twitter account was then used to confirm that Jabari had been hit, with the news posted simultaneously on the IDF's rolling blog.

    As events unfolded, the Al Qassam Brigades directly responded to a warning posted by the IDF that Hamas operatives should not "show their faces above ground in the days ahead".

    The Hamas account replied by saying "@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)."

    The exchange left users of the site dumfounded, with one writing that it was "surreal" and another recommending "you guys should just chat some more, post some pictures of cats at each other, maybe you'll get along".

    Meanwhile embassies and advocacy groups around the world posted social media updates highlighting the level of rocket attacks on the Jewish state in the days leading up to the strikes.

    Former Kadima chair Tzipi Livni took to the site to offer her support for the government, posting that it was an "appropriate assassination of the head of a terror organization that is responsible for spilling the blood of Israeli citizens".

    By Wednesday evening, topics including Hamas, airstrikes and pray for Gaza were among the most popular being used on the site – although not ahead of those referring to teen star Justin Bieber.

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