Anonymous hackers
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Numerous government and security-related websites crashed Sunday after they were apparently hacked, though the source of the malfunctions was not clear last night.

The international hackers' group Anonymous had earlier threatened the Israeli government in response to the Israel Navy's interception on Friday of two boats of activists trying to reach Gaza.

Among the sites that were affected were those of the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad, Israel's espionage agency.

Other sites that crashed included all the websites operated by the treasury as part of the Tehila Internet project, which include the servers that process payments to government ministries and which print various forms.

The sites of the Construction and Housing, Interior and Health ministries, the Beit Hanassi site and the Israel Lands Administration were also disabled.

Tehila administrators insisted Sunday that the crash was the result of a technical malfunction, not a hacking attack. But the fact that the biggest computer crash in the history of Israel's online government came so soon after the Anonymous threat led many to greet the treasury claim with skepticism.

Anonymous has already paralyzed the web activity of numerous governments and large companies all over the world.

The threat, issued in an online video addressed directly to the Israeli government, called the interception of the activists' vessels an act of "piracy" and an "illegal action against human rights, democracy and international and maritime laws."

The group said that if Israel continued to prevent "humanitarian" missions and continued its "crimes against unarmed civilians," the group would "have no choice but to strike back, again and again."

A short time after the video was uploaded, the government sites crashed.

Government and private websites in Israel are subject to unceasing attacks by hackers and attempts at cyber-sabotage. The Defense Ministry website alone sustains some 80,000 attacks a day. Its site, which operates on servers independent of government servers and which uses special security programs, operated normally on Sunday.

Anonymous is an ideological organization that claims to fight for human rights and battle any attempt at Internet censorship. This past year it supported demonstrators in Arab countries by bringing down government websites in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.