Cells Wars: The Changing Landscape of Communications Intelligence

Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS). Research Paper No. 131 May 2009 by Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

The 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict featured a series of innovative approaches to communications intelligence, which included utilizing civilian telephone networks to achieve tactical and psychological objectives. The "cell war" between the IDF and Hamas is indicative of an ongoing global struggle between asymmetrical insurgents and state actors to control large-scale telecommunications structures. "Cell wars" have been taking place for quite some time in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, and several other nations, including inside the United States. Weapons in this hi-tech conflict include surveillance satellites, voice scramblers, encryption software and mobile phone cameras, among other technologies. Essentially, this war is being fought over the control over national and international telecommunications grids, and centers increasingly on telecommunications service providers —companies such as Jawwal in Palestine, Roshan in Afghanistan, or Mobilink in Pakistan. These companies are rapidly becoming combat zones in a battle to control the channels of digital communications in 21st-century asymmetrical warfare.