The Israeli military abruptly announced after midnight on Friday that its ground forces had begun “attacking in the Gaza Strip,” saying it on Twitter, in text messages to journalists, and in on-the-record confirmations by an English-speaking army spokesman.
Several international news organizations, including The New York Times, immediately alerted readers worldwide that a Gaza incursion or invasion was underway, a major escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.
Within hours, those reports were all corrected: No invasion had taken place. Rather, ground troops had opened fire at targets in Gaza from inside Israeli territory, while fighters and drones were continuing to attack from the air. A top military spokesman took responsibility, blaming the fog of war.
But by Friday evening, several leading Israeli news outlets were reporting that the incorrect announcement was no accident, but had actually been part of an elaborate deception. The intent, the media reports said, was to dupe Hamas fighters into thinking that an invasion had begun and to respond in ways that would expose far greater numbers of them to what was being called a devastatingly lethal Israeli attack.
headlined a report by its military reporter, which called the spread of misinformation to foreign journalists a “planned ploy.”
The Israeli press cited the military as saying the plan had worked. That claim could not be independently verified.
Hezbollah missile attack had caused Israeli casualties.
The spokesman’s office waited two hours — long enough for Hezbollah fighters to declare victory and stand down — before announcing that no Israeli troops had actually been hurt.