Israel steps up "psy-ops" in Lebanon
By Peter Feuilherade
From mass targeting of mobile phones with voice and text messages to old-fashioned radio broadcasts warning of imminent attacks, Israel is deploying a range of old and new technologies in Lebanon as part of the psychological operations ("psyops") campaign supplementing its military attacks.
According to US and UK media outlets, Israel has reactivated a radio station to broadcast messages urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate the region.
Some reports have named the station as the Voice of the South.
The South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia backed by Israel, operated a radio station called Voice of the South from Kfar Killa in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s.
The station closed down in May 2000 when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.
Cash for tip-offs
The Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday reported the appearance of a website called All 4 Lebanon which offered payment for tip-offs from Lebanese citizens "that could help Israel in the fight against Hezbollah".
According to Maariv, the site, with content in Arabic, English and French, had been set up by Israeli intelligence.
"We appeal to everyone who has the ability and the desire to uproot the sore called Hezbollah from your heart and from the heart of Lebanon," the paper quoted the website as saying in Arabic.
On its English-language page, the site says: "Whoever is able and willing to help Lebanon eradicate Hezbollah's evil and get back its independence, freedom and prosperity is hereby invited to contact us."
It adds: "For your own safety, please contact us from places where no-one knows you."
The Arabic wording is identical to that on leaflets which Israeli aircraft have been dropping over Beirut and the south of Lebanon.
The leaflets called on people to "remove the sore known as Hezbollah from the heart of Lebanon".
The rewards "could be a range of things, such as cash or a house", according to an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman quoted by Reuters news agency.
It was not clear how such items would be delivered or exactly what information Israel wanted, Reuters noted.
On Friday, residents of southern Lebanon reported receiving recorded messages on their mobile phones from an unknown caller.
The speaker identified himself as an Israeli and warned people in the area to leave their homes and head north.
Dubai-based news channel al-Arabiya TV reported that the recorded messages also said they "held the Lebanese government responsible for the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers, and called on Lebanon to set them free".
Inquiries by Lebanon's communications ministry revealed that the calls had come from exchanges in Italy and Canada, but had originated in Israel.
According to US magazine Time, Israel has been targeting SMS text messages at local officials in southern Lebanon, urging them to move north of the Litani river before Israeli military operations intensified.
The UK's Guardian newspaper said mobile phone users in Lebanon were regularly receiving messages to their phones which purported to be news updates, attempting to discredit Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or his party.
Satellite warfare next?
As Israel broadens its psyops activities, it also continues to attack media targets using conventional military means.
Air raids on Saturday hit transmission stations used by Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, Future TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). A technician working for LBC was reported to have been killed.
The next day, a convoy of journalists from Lebanese and pan-Arab TV channels was attacked by Israeli planes while on a tour of southern Lebanon; no injuries were reported.
According to an unconfirmed report by Egypt's Middle East News Agency, Israel managed on Sunday "to intercept the satellite transmissions of Hezbollah's al-Manar TV channel for the third successive day, replacing it with Israeli transmissions that reportedly showed Hezbollah command sites and rocket launching pads which Israel claimed it has raided".
Replacing a TV station's picture with output you want the audience to see is more difficult to achieve than jamming.
Al-Manar TV has three satellite signals, one on ArabSat 2B at 30.5 degrees east, one on Badr 3 at 26 degrees east and one on NileSat 102 at 7 degrees west.
On Badr 3 and NileSat, al-Manar is broadcast alongside other TV stations in a multiplexed or combined digital signal.
While it would be technically feasible to replace one station's output, all the other stations in the multiplex would be taken off the air too. The technical parameters of the original station would need to be exactly duplicated by the interloper.