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updated 1/16/2012 1:48:19 PM ET 2012-01-16T18:48:19

A group of Pro-Palestinian hackers launched its latest offensive against Israel today (Jan. 16), hitting the country's stock exchange, three banks and El Al Airlines and escalating an international battle that began earlier this month.

The denial-of-service attacks, which disrupted the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), El Al and the First International Bank of Israel (and two subsidiaries, Massad and Otzar Hahayal), came just after the Saudi Arabian hacker known as 0xOmar warned the Jerusalem Post of his plan to take down the critical Israeli services.

El Al and the TASE both made swift recoveries and were back online and operating normally this morning with no trades or flights affected. The banks said their marketing sites had been hacked but client services were not damaged. 0xOmar has not claimed responsibility for the hack.

Although this latest tactical strike left no casualties — no credit cards or personal information was made public, unlike recent attacks — it has heightened tensions among between Israel and 0xOmar's pro-Palestinian cohort.

0xOmar's group, formerly "Group-XP" but now called "Nightmare," according to the Jerusalem Post, kicked off the battle on Jan. 3 by posting 15,000 Israelis' credit card numbers. The following week, An Israeli hacker calling himself "0xOmer" retaliated, leaking the credit card numbers and expiration dates of more than 400 Saudis. Then, on Jan. 12, the ever-present hacking group Anonymous stepped in on the Arabs' side, posting what appeared to be login details for Israeli SCADA industrial-control systems.

The Islamist group Hamas supports the anti-Israel cyberattacks, and has urged others to carry out similar strikes.

"This is a new field of resistance against the Occupation, and we urge Arab youth to develop methods in electronic warfare in the face of (Israel's) crimes," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi told the news service Reuters.

Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein believes the online attacks are part of a larger campaign to tarnish Israel's reputation and its economic stability. He called this latest incident "another episode in the war our enemies are conducting as a campaign of delegitimization to hit our pickets and lifestyle."

"Israel must use all measures at its disposal to prevent these virtual dangers from turning into real threats and to prevent with all its force attacks against it and its institutions," he added. "Today it's credit card theft and toppling websites, and tomorrow it could be theft of security information and harm to infrastructure."

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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