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Wooing Lebanese hearts, one leaflet at a time

Israel is using leaflets and even e-mails to try to turn Lebanese against Hizbullah, but experts doubt that it will work.

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Many of the remaining residents of southern Lebanon's war-torn towns are accustomed to the hollow thump of an explosion in the sky followed by hundreds of leaflets fluttering to streets like confetti.

They typically tell residents to leave before the bombs fall – an Israeli effort to avoid civilian casualties such as Sunday's killing of at least 65 in Qana. Head north of the Litani River "because of the terrorist activities that have been carried out against the State of Israel," they warn.

But other fliers fluttering down over Lebanon aim to foster Lebanese anger at Hizbullah, a much more ambitious effort than evacuating the country's Shiite south. Those depict Hassan Nasrallah as a cobra or show the Hizbullah chief cowering behind a shield bearing a picture of a Lebanese family.

Known as a "propaganda bomb" or by its slightly more euphemistic term, "airborne propaganda distribution," the technique of trying to sway civilians or combatants by flooding them with fliers has been around since World War II.

But today, what military-types dub psy-ops – or psychological operations – is also encompassing the technological advance of communication. Many Lebanese say they've been getting e-mails, text messages, and phone calls from Israel. One phone message said that Nasrallah had been badly wounded in an Israeli strike. Another claimed that people paid by Hizbullah were worried that they would no longer receive their monthly salaries.

But given the deep mistrust of Israel in Lebanon, many here and abroad wonder whether Israel is making an impact – be it in persuading the vulnerable to move or in winning hearts and minds in the campaign to discredit Hizbullah.

'Hello, this is the Israeli Army'

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