The violence in the Gaza Strip between Israeli and Hamas military forces continues to escalate.
Since Wednesday, at least 57 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed, USA TODAY reports. Palestinian media centers are among the sites targeted by Israeli rockets.
Since the conflict flared up again last week, social media has been abuzz with reports, opinons and concern.
Israeli civilians run for cover during a rocket attack launched from from Gaza on Nov. 17 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Journalists and activists using social media during times of serious military strife is not a recent development — Twitter was an integral part of the 2009 Iranian Revolution, and later the Arab Spring uprising.
The official Twitter account for Israel Defense Forces (@IDFspokesperson) and the military wing for Hamas (@AlqassamBrigade), the group that controls Gaza, have been trading threats, as well as reporting on the latest attacks.
According to Bloomberg, the social media strategies of both organizations reflect their public relations strategy, as both the IDF and Hamas look to gain public sympathy. Each Twitter feed has also employed rival hashtags for the situation in Gaza — #PillarsofDefense for the Israeli forces, #GazaUnderAttack for the Palestinians.
Students with ties to the Middle East are also posting their opinions, news articles and other information on Facebook and Twitter.
For Kira Helman and Gabriel Paez — both college students in Florida — the violence is not a religious issue, but a human rights issue.
Helman, who identifies as an atheist, is set to visit Israel in the next month on a birthright trip. She has been sharing quotes from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as updates from the IDF (occasionally written in Hebrew), online.
“I have a lot of problems with Israel,” Helman said. “But I think that what they’re doing is warranted. The size of the area that was being bombed hundreds, if not thousands, of times is the size of New York state, which certainly helps to put it into perspective.”
For the Brazilian-born Paez, a member of Students United for Justice in Palenstine at Florida State University, his online criticism of Israel’s actions translates into offline civic engagement.
Paez is using Facebook to organize an “Emergency Action for Gaza” demonstration at FSU, set for Monday, Nov. 19. Similar demonstrations are scheduled to take place across the globe, including several universities campuses like Temple University and the University of Washington.
“The impoverished Gaza strip is under attack from one of the most advanced military forces in the world,” Paez wrote. “Gaza is among the most densely populated land masses, and has been under a suffocating Israeli blockade since 2006, as an act of collective punishment which makes no distinction between civilian and combatant.”
Although Helman says she has received mostly positive feedback on her posts and tweets, she also finds that many students are apathetic or ill-informed about foreign affairs.
“Hamas is a state-supported terrorist group, and it’s frustrating to see people hating on Israel and I can’t really understand it, because I think that any state, especially ours, would react in the same way,” the University of North Florida sophomore said. “Israel’s been attacked constantly since it’s inception.”
Paez, who has also been sharing news articles and quotes on Facebook, sees the violence in a different light.
On the struggles of Palestinians, he says: “sometimes we are forced to speak up.”
Social media enables both sides to do so.
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