The armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the National Resistance Brigades, has expanded their online presence over the last several months. The DFLP used to be on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) but was removed in 1999 due to its “absence of terrorist activity,” according to the FTO report.
The DFLP is a part of a coalition of militant groups in the Gaza Strip who operate under the Joint Room. The Joint Room is made up of 13 factions who act as a quasi-Palestinian army when conflict breaks out against Israel. The most recent action by the Joint Room was dubbed “Operation Roar for the Dawn.” The operation consisted of a two-day salvo of rockets against Israel for the killing of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata.
In Sept. 2019, the DFLP took to application called Telegram to expand their online footprint. Telegram enables the uploading of text, picture and video to users who join the group’s channel.
The Gaza Strip’s militant groups are no stranger to the use of Telegram as a form of publishing information to public. The most powerful militant groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been active on the social media platform for several years.
The DFLP’s first post was a video of several mortar launches against Israeli cities and communities along the Gaza Strip’s border in Nov. 2019. The attack was a part of a reprisal campaign by the members of the Joint Room during operation “Roar for the Dawn.”
Generally, the DFLP released videos of military training and propaganda banners via their channel. However, from time to time, there are publications, especially videos, of IDF military activity in and around the Gaza Strip. This can be interpreted as a warning that the militant group notices the IDF activity around them and is paying attention.
As recent as last week, the DFLP and its military wing published a statement via its Telegram channel mourning the death of the IRGC’s Qods Force chief, Qasem Soleimani, after he was killed by an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq.
The homage paid to Soleimani from a Sunni militant group in Gaza offers a perspective of the respect the group and its leaders have for the former Shiite Qods Force chief.
The DFLP will likely continue to use social media, specifically Telegram, to publish the groups’ activities to the public. The group also uses Facebook to publish information. However, over the last few years, Facebook has tightened its rules and enforcement against promoting violence on its platform. It has closed multiple accounts of the group, including its activists.
This is has been the biggest factor for the migration of Palestinian militant groups, such as the DFLP, to move their social media operations to Telegram. It is more secure, popular and the likelihood of having their channel shut down is far less than on Facebook.
The identification, tracking, and closing of Telegram channels run by al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups over the years seems to be a greater priority for the social media company compared to the accounts run by Palestinian militant groups.
So far, there has been little evidence of a Telegram channel being shuttered over incitement or violence, over the years of tracking Gaza-based factions on the application. Smaller channels operated by activists and supporters have also been spared from Telegram’s account closures.
Due to the lack of enforcement against channels run by Palestinian militant groups, they will likely continue to run unabated and without fear of losing channels with subscribers that are in the tens of thousands.
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