When Israel announced early Friday that it had sent ground troops into Gaza, journalists immediately relayed the news around the world. The move was an escalation, indicating the battle—largely limited to rockets and bombing so far—could quickly become a full-fledged war. Until Israel said it was all a mistake. Within hours, a military spokesman said that actually, Israeli troops were firing from Israeli territory into Gaza. No troops had crossed the line. By then, journalists had trouble believing that it was an honest mistake, David Halbfinger writes in an analysis in the New York Times. Israeli news outlets reported that Israel provided the false information intentionally, to make Hamas fighters believe an invasion had begun and increase their exposure. One result was that Hamas forces poured into tunnels that about 160 Israeli jets then bombarded. Israel’s Channel 12 news station said the misinformation was planned. "This is how the tunnels became death traps for terrorists in Gaza," a reporter said.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Israel's English-language military spokesman, took the blame. He told reporters in a curt phone call that he misunderstood information he received and didn't check it. He said there was no attempt to deceive anyone but added, "I can understand that it may look differently." Conricus, who's retiring from his job next month, has until now been known for being precise, Halbfinger writes. Israel indeed wanted the fighters to think an invasion was imminent, Conricus said, so it did things like moving armored vehicles to the border so they can be heard. He said the "target audience" wasn't reporters. "The target audience are hopefully the dead terrorists that are now lying inside the tunnel. What the IDF wanted to create was a situation where they went down into the tunnels so that we could attack them," Conricus said. The answers weren't reassuring to reporters. "If they used us, it’s unacceptable," said an NPR reporter. "And if not, then what’s the story—and why is the Israeli media widely reporting that we were duped?" You can read the full piece here. (Israel destroyed news media offices on Saturday.)