The big change between Israel’s Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2009 military campaigns is that the Israeli military has been innovative in manipulating the information war.
“The IDF is controlling media access to Gaza, by sealing it off from correspondents as a direct lesson learned from Lebanon,” the U.S. official says. “[In the Lebanon conflict] the IDF had major problems with press all over the battle area, [and often] contradicting what the Israeli government was saying to its citizens.”
Analysis of the Lebanon conflict discovered that Hezbollah was correcting the range and azimuth of its missiles using the live pictures of explosions run on Israeli television.
“The other information operations aspect is the way that the IDF is influencing world opinion by setting up their own YouTube page where they are posting HUD [from the cockpit]footage of attacks that are nicely annotated,” he says. “There are frequent briefings by IDF spokespeople both in English and in Arabic). They have set up blogs as well--basically really trying to get their message out in a pretty media-savvy way.”
U.S. intelligence has been tracking the fighting in Gaza closely and say that both sides have conducted a relatively atrocity-free fight so far, and the Israeli air force has not been seriously threatened by Hamas air defense weapons.
“There have been no confirmed use of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles,” says a U.S. defense official. “The only thing remotely related [to air defense was] an old AAA piece the IDF [Israel Defense Force] found in the basement of a mosque. No fighters, helos or UAVs have been lost to Hamas fire.”
IAF officials confirm that they’ve seen nothing launched. But since Israeli aircraft are constantly popping flares when flying over Gaza, “they are respecting the possibility of Hamas firing MANPADS,” the U.S. official says, “but they have not seen any solid evidence of employment at this point.”
While acknowledging there’s been a lot of international outcry about the fighting, U.S. intelligence has not seen what would be classified as inhuman.
“It's been a really clean campaign to this point, overall,” the official says. “The IDF has really gone to great lengths to avoid unnecessary casualties on either side.”