Anti-Israel hackers stepped up their attempts to pull down Israeli sites over the weekend, with numerous attempted denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Israeli government sites. Hacker sites listed numerous websites they claimed to have disabled, and several sites reported slowdowns on Saturday night, but nearly all the sites the hackers claimed to have taken down were operating normally.

Among the sites that experienced actual downtime due to attacks were those of Israel’s Education Ministry and Central Bureau of Statistics, which was still offline as of Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Israeli hackers began to retaliate against the anti-Israel hack attacks, called #OpIsrael, with an operation of their own against sites in countries associated with the anti-Israel groups. A group called the Israeli Elite Strike Force over the weekend disabled dozens of sites in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and several north African countries – and even acquired a domain name associated with the OpIsrael attack — opisrael.com. Instead of listing the sites anti-Israel hackers have defaced, that site features educational facts about Israel and the Jewish people, and a warning to anti-Israel groups that Israeli hackers were ready to fight fire with fire.

opsirael.com on Saturday night

opsirael.com on Saturday night

Israeli Elite Strike Force seems to have been organized quickly in the past few days, in response to the threat by anti-Israel hackers to “erase Israel from the Internet” on April 7. The hackers released a list of some 1,300 Israeli sites that they planned to strike, claiming to have begun their attacks already on Saturday. But a check of most of the sites that the hackers claimed to have disabled – sites belonging to the Bank of Israel, the Tax Authority, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and other government agencies – showed they were operating normally. Several sites were hacked by groups associated with OpIsrael, but most of those were privately owned sites.

The hackers claimed to be identified with Anonymous, but Dr. Tal Pavel of MiddleEasterNet said that the group behind OpIsrael was most likely an ad-hoc assembly of Arab hacktivists calling themselves “Dangerous Hackers.” The group was not necessarily associated with international hacking group Anonymous, Pavel said, and on Saturday, individuals claiming to be members of Anonymous posted on the forum site 4Chan that they were not associated with OpIsrael. However, another alleged Anonymous site, possibly located in Sweden, on Saturday night claimed that Anonymous hackers were involved in the anti-Israel cyber attack.

A Twitter feed, ostensibly by Anonymous hackers, claimed it had stolen passwords and information from Israeli sites, including the Facebook account login data for Israeli government officials. However, Pavel said, such claims could not be trusted, because hacker groups often recycled old information from previously leaked databases, claiming it was fresh, in order to score a public relations victory. In several instances in recent days, said Pavel, he discovered that names and passwords hackers claimed to have stolen from Israeli servers last week were several years old.

Meanwhile, Israeli Elite Strike Force worked on Saturday night to pull down more sites. The group started attacking sites in Pakistan Friday but took off for Shabbat.

“We wish all our JEWISH brothers a Shabbat Shalom,” the group said in its Twitter feed. “This was just a little taste before the day of rest. Hell’s Fire To Come.”