Fake news story ignites Pakistan-Israel feud on Twitter

A fake news story has touched off a tense Twitter confrontation between Pakistan and Israel, in an episode that underlines the potentially harmful impact of such stories on sensitive global affairs.

Website published sham report of nuclear threat by former Israeli defence minister

A website claimed former Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon, seen here at right with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February 2015, had made nuclear threats against Pakistan. Pakistan's defence minister apparently thought the fake news report was real. (Sebastian Scheiner/The Associated Press)

A fake news story touched off a tense Twitter confrontation between nuclear power Pakistan and Israel, widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal of its own, in an episode that underlines the potentially harmful impact of such stories on sensitive global affairs.

In an apparent response to a fake story claiming Israel's former defence minister threatened a nuclear attack against Pakistan if it sends troops to Syria, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif reminded Israel that "Pakistan is a nuclear state too."

Israel's Defence Ministry tweeted back Saturday, saying the original story on the site AWD News was "totally fictitious."

AWD has been identified by fact-checking organizations as a site that often propagates fake news.

Israel maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying the existence of an arsenal. Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998. The countries have no diplomatic ties.

There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan to Israel's response.