BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel detains soldiers after casualty leaks

A mourner touches the flag-draped coffin of Israeli soldier Natan Cohen, killed during fighting in Gaza on Tuesday, during his funeral in Modi'in, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Nir Elias

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Wednesday that it had detained several soldiers and a civilian on suspicion of leaking Gaza casualty figures over social media before families of the dead or wounded could be formally informed.

A week into ground fighting with Hamas that has killed at least 32 soldiers, some Israelis complain of first learning their relatives were dead through WhatsApp, or of being misled by erroneous messages into believing they were among the toll.

The phenomenon has led to front-page calls by Israeli commentators to stop the relaying of unauthorized casualty updates. Hoping to control the information, the army has confiscated the cellphones of troops sent into combat.

“Notifying a family of a soldier or officer who was killed in action is one of the most sensitive and well-planned procedures that exists in the military, as befits such a serious moment,” the military said while announcing the arrests following an investigation that it described has having employed “both open-source and undercover means.”

The army has revised its own official information regarding a soldier it initially reported as killed in Gaza Sunday but later designated as missing in action.

Hamas said it had seized the soldier but did not issue photographs of him in captivity.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 24, 2014, on page 9.

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