New intifada is on the walls and on the Web

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The Independent Online

As Israel's conflict with the Palestinians nears the end of its first month, the battle is being fought not only on the streets, but on walls and in cyberspace.

As Israel's conflict with the Palestinians nears the end of its first month, the battle is being fought not only on the streets, but on walls and in cyberspace.

The new intifada has spawned another generation of graffiti artists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead of confronting Israeli forces with stones and petrol bombs, some teenagers are spraying murals and slogans on walls urging their brothers to fight.

One mural in the Gaza Strip depicts Mohammed al-Durah, the 12-year-old boy shot dead in his father's arms earlier this month, with the slogan "What has been taken by force can be returned only by force".

Graffiti was essential to the struggle during the six-year intifada that ended with the start of the peace process in 1993. The Japanese government gave the Palestinian Authority $5m after the signing of the interim peace accords to paint out the slogans, but it has become money wasted.

Even though the Palestinians now have their own radio and television stations, graffiti is still used by Palestinian factions to publicise protests and criticise each other. "Hamas calls on the Palestinian Authority to stop any sort of negotiations with the Zionist enemy", read one message.

The struggle has also moved on to the internet. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry website crashed again, despite added security measures taken after it went down under a flood of traffic earlier this week. Ori Noy, director of the ministry's information division, said: "This technique of attacking websites is an unacceptable act of virtual terrorism."

NetVision, Israel's largest service provider, said official websites had been attacked by hackers it suspected were linked to "Arab terrorists". The provider, which said attempts had been made to hack the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) website, tracked the attacks to university servers in Europe and the United States, but was not sure they originated there.

At the height of the "spamming" subscribers were unable to get online or found connections very slow. "As a company that provides internet service to the IDF and other government institutions, Net-Vision has been exposed to violence that is part of the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians," said Gilad Rabinovich, the provider's chief.

Israeli hackers have also been at work. The website of the Hizbollah guerrilla movement, a thorn in the side of the Israeli military during its occupation of south Lebanon, now shows the Israeli flag and plays "Hatikvah", Israel's national anthem. Under the headline "WAR?" a message dated yesterday said: "Site updated. This page was uploaded to protest against the Arabic attacks in the past few days." Instead of Hizbollah's site (www.hizballa.org), which gave pen-portraits of officials and contact details, photographs of gun-toting Palestinians are on show.

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