Pakistan came close to interrupting Christmas Eve by attacking Israel – all because of a fake news story.
On social media, Pakistan’s defencse minister promised to retaliate against any Israeli nuclear strike, an attack which Israel never threatened to initiate.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif was reacting to what he thought was a tweet by the Israeli defense minister that predicted nuclear annihilation for Pakistan if the largely Muslim country sent troops to Syria.
But that tweet was never sent. Instead, Pakistan was basing potentially catastrophic military action on information relayed by AWDNews and headlined: “Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops into Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack.”
That supposed news alert raised the ire of Asif who implied massive retaliation in a Friday Tweet:
Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh.Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too AH
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) December 23, 2016
Israel responded on Saturday with this clarification: “@KhawajaMAsif The statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said,” adding: “KhawajaMAsif reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false.”
The incident roused concerns that social media and fake news reports could escalate into war. As well-known Pakistani television journalist Nusrat Javeed commented, “Our nuclear program is too serious a business to be left to Twitter-addicted politicians.”
Israel is not officially a member of the nuclear club and maintains a policy of neither confirming nor denying its possession of nuclear weapons. However, intelligence reports have long suggested that it is nuclear-capable.
Pakistan confirmed its atomic capability with its first nuclear test in 1998. It maintains a large and growing stockpile of nuclear arms according to intelligence reports.
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