1. An Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center examination revealed that on October 22 Hamas's AqsaTube returned to the Internet a week after it had been removed.
2. Its renewed appearance was enabled by the support of a Russian Internet company called 2X4.ru network , after it had been dropped by the French company OVH following a BBC News query. This is not the first time Russian companies have provided technical services for Hamas websites.
3. The new version of the site contains videos which appeared previously, 3 with the addition of new ones for propaganda and incitement. Some of the new videos were produced by the information bureau of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing. The new site has tried to represent itself as reflecting all the Palestinian terrorist organizations by adding videos associated with other Palestinian terrorist. Videos of global jihad organizations were also added.
4. For example, there is a video explaining the safe, effective use of an RPG-7 launcher, alongside the previous video about how to use electrical devices to detonate bombs. The new version of AqsaTube also has videos supporting Al-Qaeda and Chechen terrorism, and others preaching to European and American Christians that they convert to Islam.
Videos encouraging terrorism and violence on the new version of AqsaTube.
AqsaTube's new format
5. The ITIC examination revealed that after a week off the Internet, the site returned on October 22 bearing the same name with a somewhat different format. Apparently those behind the new AqsaTube are trying to represent it as reflecting all the Palestinian terrorist organizations and not exclusively Hamas. For that reason, the homepage has pictures not only of Hamas leaders who died in targeted attacks but also former leaders of other Palestinian terrorist organizations (such as Fathi Shqaqi, Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad [Khalil al-Wazir], Abu Ali Mustafa and Ahmed Yassin). The link to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV no longer appears on the site, in our assessment not to directly involve Hamas.
6. In our assessment, the site presents a false front and it is affiliated with and run by Hamas. That is because of the nature of the videos available and the fact that its previous version included a link to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV. In addition, formal reactions to the removal of the site (including an open letter) appeared on Hamas forums, especially the PALDF Forum. One of the reactions to the affair expressly stated that "The new [media] uproar reveals the exceptional strength of Hamas in the media and on the Internet...”
7. It is important to note the appearance of a video of the life of the shaheed Khattab was included on the new site's homepage in an attempt to make it seem part of the global Islamic jihad. Khattab was the nickname of a well-known Chechen terrorist head, either a Jordanian or a Saudi Arabian and a veteran of Afghanistan , whom the Russians killed. He has since become an object of veneration and a role model for Hamas. In addition, a Hamas website posted fatwas by, among others, a senior Hamas cleric (Hamed al-Bitawi), justifying suicide bombing attacks against Russians and Jews. 4
A poster from a CD distributed by Hamas's student movement at the American University in Jenin, November 2003. Khattab appears in the center and at the left. The inscription reads, "Oh hero, who disappeared from the land of jihad, your eyes covered with a tearful veil of dreams. Allah relieved you of [life in] a time when everything is upside down...”
Hamas's ideological identification with Chechen terrorism: a poster circulated in the
Palestinian Authority by Hamas on a propaganda DC. The title reads " Chechnya,
Afghanistan , the Balkans, Kashmir, Palestine and Lebanon .”
The new site's graphic design
8. The graphic design of the site underwent a number of changes. The original logo, whose color was almost identical with that of YouTube, is now yellow and gray and bears its name in Arabic and a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
AqsaTube's new logo.
The YouTube logo, which inspired the old AqsaTube logo, seen at right.
9. The new site no longer carries Google AdSense advertisements (the result of a Jerusalem Post enquiry). It now carries an advertisement for the browser game Travian, which is in Hebrew and intended for Hebrew speakers. At this time it is unclear how the advertisement appeared on the site.
Left: Advertisement for the browser game Travian in Hebrew. Next to it are links to propaganda videos for radical Islam, among them one by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy.
Support from ISPs
10. The site's registrar is the Arizona-based Godaddy, through Proxy, Inc. ( Scottsdale , Arizona ), which specializes in registering site for clients who are not interested in revealing their names, in return for a fee. After the French OVH removed AqsaTube, its Internet services are provided by the Russian 2X4.ru network. The company's contact person is Yuri Bugdanov, located in Moscow . The site is still registered to Abu Nasser Skandar, from Dubai . It also receives support from the Egyptian Excellent Serv Co. 5
11. As noted, the site is supported by a Russian company even though the homepage contains pictures of one of the leaders of Chechen terrorism, killed by the Russians, and it is rife with videos preaching the ideology of Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. Russia considers the Chechen separatists identified with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad as terrorists and their activities are forbidden by Russian law.
1 An update of our October 20 Bulletin, "The Internet and terrorism: following the ITIC report on Hamas's AqsaTube, it was removed by its French ISP from the net".
2 For further information see our February 2006 Bulletin entitled "Russian president invites Hamas to Moscow ”.
3 For further information see our October 12, 2008 Bulletin entitled "The Internet and terrorism: Hamas recently launched a new website called AqsaTube, an addition to its extensive Internet presence” .
4 For further information see our July 19, 2006 Bulletin entitled "Shamil Basayev, leader of the Chechen separatists was killed by the Russian security forces” .
5 Based on data from the Whois sites .