#AskHamas Why did you murder my friends Orit Ozarov and Livnat Dvash and 9 other innocent Israelis at the Moment Cafe on March 9th, 2002?
AN ATTEMPT by Palestinian militant group Hamas to drum up support with western audiences on Twitter has backfired, with the #AskHamas hashtag quickly being hijacked with references to suicide bombings, rocket attacks and human shields.
The campaign, launched on Friday, promised responses from the group’s leaders, or as they called it, “Truth from the mouth of the horse.”
Some Twitter users swiftly responded with mockery. One asked if a masked Hamas gunman was “single and ready to mingle”.
Some criticised Hamas for hiding weapons and fighters in civilian areas in its war last summer with Israel. One asked Hamas “how it chooses human shields”.
A Twitter user whose profile identified her as an Israeli diplomat asked: “Given a choice, is it better to hide a weapons cache in a hospital’s radiology or pediatrics unit?”
Another Tweeter asked: “Now serious question — looking back to summer 2014 — was it worth it?”
Hamas said the hashtag campaign was launched so the militant group could express its views directly to the world. Bassem Naim, a Hamas official, said the campaign is “a step by Hamas to introduce it to the world in new languages, English, French and German, on the basis that the source is a direct Hamas official, not through mediators or translators”.
According to the social media analytics website Topsy, the AskHamas hashtag generated 36,000 tweets in a single day.
The Gaza war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials.
Israel says the number of Palestinian fighters killed was much higher than Hamas will admit and accuses the group of using civilians as human shields and storing weapons in schools and hiding gunmen in hospitals. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
A statement posted by one of the group’s media officials said it was “aimed to send a message to the European public” which has “demonstrated its solidarity with the Palestinian cause” that Hamas is “not a terrorist movement, but a nationalist liberation movement”.
Haaretz reports the campaign was timed to coincide with an expected European Union appeal against removing the group from the EU’s terror list. A European court ordered the removal of Hamas from the EU terror list in December.
Hamas’ military arm is still designated a terrorist organisation by the government of Australia.
Some tweeters asked Hamas about their use of suicide bombers in buses, cafes and other civilian areas during the Palestinian Intifada.
Journalist Jeffery Goldberg asked “Why did you murder 30 civilians, including 20 people over the age of 70, at a Passover Seder in Netanya in 2002?”
Pictures of Palestinian children at rallies where militants wore suicide bomber vests and waved guns were posted.
Some users made a point of mentioning how senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal spent the recent Gaza war in his hotel room in Doha. One wrote: “Are your brave billionaire ‘leaders’ still urging you and your children to martyrdom from the luxury of a 5-star hotel in Qatar?”
Others tweeters chose to take things in a humorous direction. An image of a gunman in a white face mask with militant headband was posted with the caption: “What happens if he sneezes?”
Another wrote: “When is the Gaza City gay pride parade this year?” Homosexuality is taboo in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Another asked: “Will you be publicly executing the person that came up with the idea to #AskHamas?”
Most of the questions went unanswered.