IDF forces withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip on Sunday after incorrect rumors that the army had been ordered out circulated on Facebook.
Troops hastily returned to their positions when IDF command became aware of the error and issued orders to rectify the tactical faux pas.
The incident started early in the morning with a Facebook status post that read “IDF pulling out of Gaza — thank goodness the fighting is over.” Although there was no further information provided the status was rapidly shared over 50,000 times within an hour and received half a million ‘Likes’.
Soldiers in Gaza soon heard of the news themselves and began packing up their equipment. In an bizarre reversal of military protocol the information filtered up the chain of command rather than down and quickly led to full retreat by IDF forces. By midday all IDF soldiers were back inside Israel and the border gate had been locked.
Southern Region Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Yitzhak “Habibi” Golinger, the senior officer in the field, then traveled to the central military command center in Tel Aviv to personally report to top brass about completion of the withdrawal.
A high ranking military source who was present at the time described the bewilderment that ensued when Golinger presented himself to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
“What the hell are you doing here?” demanded a surprised Gantz.
The next few minutes, during which commanders tried to unravel the confusion, were “heated, tense, and humiliating,” the source said.
The debate was brought to an abrupt close when Gantz commanded Golinger to “get your a** back into Gaza and take the damn army with you!”
Golinger immediately left and within an hour forces reentered Gaza to take up the positions they had earlier abandoned.
“No harm done,” a relieved-looking Golinger told media when the last troops reported that they had successfully returned to their posts.
The unexpected development apparently took Hamas by surprise and Gazan fighters were unable to take any advantage from the absence of IDF troops in the coastal enclave.
An IDF spokesman said the matter is under investigation and warned the public that information posted on the Internet can be very misleading.
“If it doesn’t come from a reliable source then it really has no more value than graffiti scrawled on a toilet wall,” the spokesman said.
Spoof and satire contributed to this blog post.