Major Lerner, the spokesman and Head of the International Media Branch of IDF, tweeted news of a successful hit of terrorist Mohammad Assi, who was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel-Aviv. He continued with a series of tweets about Assi, finishing with a general tweet, reading: The IDF will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life."
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This seemingly sparked outrage at Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades, who do not normally engage in 140-character battles with Israeli factions. They tweeted back: "Al Qassam Brigades will continue its holy way of struggle and resistance till the liberation of the whole Palestine."
In an unusual move, Lerner replied: "Israel is here to stay. The IDF will continue to pursue the perpetrators of terror."
The virtual ping-pong between Lerner and the Brigades continued; Hamas replied: "We are in a mission that aims at restoring our occupied land whatever the cost is," which elicited Lerner's digital reply: "Our mission is one of safeguarding human life, all human life."
Hamas tweeted back: "Your mission is to bury the Palestinian children under the rubble of their houses," adding a graphic photo of a toddler buried under ruins. This seemed to end the discourse, until pro-Israeli organization tweeted to Hamas: "Your mission is to guarantee there is never peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
The wonder of social Media
Lerner told the Wall Street Journal that he felt obligated to reply to Hamas' tweets, but that he doesn't consider the incident as dialogue with the terrorist group. "That's the wonder of social media," he said, "you can communicate so easily. They reached out, and I responded."
This is not the first time Lerner sparks controversy in the tweeter arena. Two years ago he responded to the death of Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi, who died after an Israeli soldier hit him in the face with a tear gas canister as he was running along an IDF jeep, throwing stones in the West Bank village Nabi Saleh.
Lerner tweeted about the incident, using the word "fail", which was perceived as mockery of the protester's death. Current belief is that Lerner's intention was to use the word in its literal sense – as failure.
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