The Israeli army and intelligence agencies’ websites were offline on Sunday, two days after hacker group Anonymous warned it would ‘strike back’ in retaliation for Israel’s capture of Gaza-bound ships on Friday.
Anonymous, a network of online activists who have attacked government and financial websites around the world, released a statement Friday warning that the group would take action against the Israeli navy’s seizure of two ships aiming to break Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.
‘Your actions are illegal, against democracy, human rights, international and maritime laws,’ the statement, addressed to the government of Israel and posted on Youtube and Anonymous-affiliated sites, said.
‘Justifying war, murder, illegal interception, and pirate-like activities under an illegal cover of defence will not go unnoticed by us or the people of the world.’
Websites for Israel’s army, internal security service, Shin Bet and the Mossad spy agency could not be accessed on Sunday.
It could not be confirmed that Anonymous was responsible.
An Israeli army spokesman said it was a ‘strange coincidence’ but he could not confirm that hacking was responsible.
‘Initial investigations conducted by the internet company indicate problems with the internet servers,’ a military spokeswoman added.
She said they did not know whether it came as a result of a hack.
In its statement Anonymous slammed Israel’s deadly raid on a flotilla heading to Gaza last year, which killed nine Turkish nationals.
‘If you continue blocking humanitarian vessels to Gaza or repeat the dreadful actions of May 31st, 2010 against any Gaza Freedom Flotillas then you will leave us no choice but to strike back. Again and again, until you stop,’ the statement said.
Israel has meanwhile transferred 21 of the 27 activists on board the two Gaza-bound international aid flotillas to a detention facility.
An Israeli official said on Saturday that six of the activists had been deported.
Israeli naval vessels on Friday intercepted and boarded the boats that aimed ‘to challenge Israel’s ongoing criminal blockade of the (Gaza) territory.’
‘What Israel did towards the two boats will not end the solidarity boats, the actions against the siege on Gaza will continue,’ said activist Amjad Shawa on Saturday.
The mini-aid flotilla, called Freedom Waves to Gaza, left the Turkish port city of Fethiye on Wednesday and was scheduled to reach the Gaza Strip on Friday.
The Canadian ship, Tahrir (Freedom), and the Irish ship, Saoirse (Freedom) are carrying 27 activists, including journalists and crew members, along with $30,000 worth of medicine.
Gaza has been blockaded since 2006, a situation which has caused a decline in the standard of living and brought about unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces detained two men in the Hebron area at dawn on Saturday, activists said.
Troops raided the house of Yousef Abu Maria, 37, in Beit Ummar and detained him after an extensive search, a spokesman for the popular committee against the wall in the town said.
Locals witnesses said that forces also seized Wisam Ramadan, 16, from the Old City of Hebron in an overnight raid.
An Israeli army spokesman said he was not familiar with the detentions.
Israeli forces fired on a group of people east of Gaza City on Saturday morning, moderately injuring one man.
Witnesses said they were surprised by the gunfire, which came as farmers were tending their land near Gaza City’s juice factory, towards the Karni crossing into Israel.
Muhammad Ibrahim Hamad, 23, was injured in the leg.
The group were terrified and ran from the area, witnesses said.
An Israeli army spokesman claimed its forces ‘recognised a group suspects coming near the security fence,’ before firing in the air to move the group away.
When one person ‘refused (to move back) they fired at his lower body mass,’ the spokesman claimed, adding that the area near Gaza’s border is frequently used to launch attacks against Israelis.
Rights groups say workers tending land and collecting stones and other construction materials along Israel’s buffer zone in north and eastern Gaza have been targeted by Israeli soldiers.
In 2010, Defence for Children International documented 14 cases between March and October of Palestinian youths under the age of 18 who were shot by Israeli forces while collecting gravel in the border zone.
While a few of these teens were shot as close as 50 metres from the border, others were 500, 600, even 800 metres from the border when the shooting occurred, the group said.
• French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has warned against a military attack on Iran over its nuclear programme.
This followed remarks on Sunday by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who said that an attack on Iran was becoming increasingly more likely.
Juppe told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that ‘a military intervention could create a situation that completely destabilises the region.’
He noted that sanctions against Iran should be toughened, and that ‘everything must be done’ to avoid an act of aggression against the Islamic Republic.
Juppe said: ‘We have imposed sanctions that continue to expand, we can toughen them to put pressure on Iran.’
He added: ‘We will continue on this path because a military intervention could create a situation that completely destabilises the region.
‘Everything must be done to avoid the irreversible.’
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the Knesset last Monday in an effort to garner support for a military attack on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Supported by the defence minister, Ehud Barak, and foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu argued that Israel should proceed with efforts to encourage the West to exert more economic and political pressure on Iran.
He also emphasised that any action against Iran should be carried out in full coordination with the United States.
Israel, which is widely believed to possess over 300 atomic warheads, along with the US accuses Tehran of pursuing a military nuclear programme.
Under pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv, the UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Tehran.
Washington and the EU have also adopted unilateral measures against Iran’s energy sector.
While Israel refuses to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities or to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty based on its policy of nuclear ambiguity, Iran is a signatory to the NPT and has been subjected to snap International Atomic Energy Agency inspections due to its policy of nuclear transparency.