Hizbollah, Israel fight cyberwar

Published November 6th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Now that daily bloodshed has seemingly ceased on the Lebanese-Israeli borders, a new kind of fierce war is raging on another battlefront: The Internet. It began almost a month ago with an all-out cyber offensive by Israelis and their supporters around the world against sites of the Lebanese Hizbollah resistance movement, triggering a counterattack by Arabs worldwide.  


A Web blitz of millions of hits crashed the two Internet sites of Hizbollah, which had spearheaded the guerrilla war against Israeli occupation until the Jewish state's May 24 Israeli pullout from southern Lebanon. The campaign followed the group's capture of three Israeli soldiers in the occupied Shebaa Farms area on October 7.  


The cyberwar heated up also because of Hizbollah's fervent encouragement to the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against occupation and the Palestinians' open admiration for Hizbollah resistance fighters. “We were used to such cyber attacks whenever Hizbollah staged successful or large commando operations, but never has it been so harsh,” Hizbollah webmaster Ali Ayoub told AFP.  


“The hits came mainly from Israel, but they were also closely coordinated with attacks emanating from the United States and Europe,” said the computer wiz, mixing his Arabic fluently with cyber-jargon in English. Ayoub said “tens of thousands of hits came via the e-mail provider America Online. Any provider notices that tens of thousands of e-mail bombings are being launched through it, but for some reason AOL did not do anything.”  


He explained that the attacks were either “e-mail bombings” in which sites are flooded with large-size mails, some with viruses attached to them, or through a “virtual overwhelming traffic” of the servers. Inconet, the Lebanese server that Hizbollah was using for its two sites, also published a statement to denounce the Israeli attacks, which overloaded the server for several days.  


Ayoub said Hizbollah then decided to keep its two sites, which the group had first launched in 1997, closed “temporarily” while opening seven other back-up sites. “The Israelis want to prevent us from being on the Internet through under-the-belt dealings, but we did not retaliate as an organization,” he said. “It was our supporters, whether Arabs, Muslims or foreigners, who had the idea of a major counter-attack. They rallied from around the world to attack a number of Israeli sites,” he said.  


The Beirut media dubbed such hits as “cyber-Katyushas,” in reference to the rockets that Hizbollah used to maintain a power balance by launching them against northern Israel every time Israel harmed Lebanese civilians.  


The counterattack crashed or crippled for a short period the sites of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), the foreign ministry, the government, the premiership, the Labor Party, the central bank and the army, which was forced to employ a US firm that specializes in protection of web sites to upgrade its security.  


Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Noam Katz confirmed the attacks to AFP on Oct. 26, saying that parties involved in the attacks were “controlled by the Shiites in the United States.”  


The next day, a US government agency headed by the FBI, the National Infrastructure Protection Centre, warned that the Israeli-Palestinian violence could spark a rising level of cyber attacks that might even hit US websites.  


It was proved true Friday, when the website of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the influential pro-Israeli lobby in Washington, was defaced with pro-Palestinian graffiti. Users of the site were redirected to the page of the Pakistan Hackerz Club.  


The Hizbollah webmaster explained that the Lebanese group considers the Internet “a public domain and a means of expression for everyone.” “We also considered that our presence on the Internet was the most important thing for us, our sole objective is to remain up and running,” he said.  


Ayoub said their other aim was to show that Israel's mighty military power in the region did not scare the Lebanese, even less Hizbollah, which had always maintained that “the enemy withdrew from Lebanon after a harsh defeat by the heroic resistance.”  


“There is a power balance in this field. All it takes is a computer and brains. Like the Israelis, we proved to everyone that we have the technology and the brains to do it and win this war,” he said. — (AFP, Beirut) 


© Agence France Presse 2000

© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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