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A spokesman led the international media to believe that Israeli forces had entered Gaza. They hadn’t. But the army wanted Hamas to think they had.

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    But by Friday evening, several leading Israeli news outlets were reporting that the incorrect announcement was no accident, but had actually been part of an elaborate deception. The intent, the media reports said, was to dupe Hamas fighters into thinking that an invasion had begun and to respond in ways that would expose far greater numbers of them to what was being called a devastatingly lethal Israeli attack.

    But in the Hebrew-language press, the military was simultaneously being praised for luring Hamas fighters into a network of tunnels in northern Gaza that was pounded by some 160 Israeli jets in a fury of airstrikes beginning around midnight.

    “This is how the tunnels became death traps for terrorists in Gaza,” Israel’s Channel 12 news station headlined a report by its military reporter, which called the spread of misinformation to foreign journalists a “planned ploy.”