The Times of Israel and Asia Times websites were hijacked and defaced by suspected Turkish hackers on Thursday (2 November), media outlets reported. Hackers affiliated with the hacking group Akincila, which means "Raiders" in Turkish, claimed responsibility for the cyberattacks and briefly took over the news websites, replacing their main pages with images of children waving the Turkish flag.
The hijacked pages displayed a message referencing Palestine and Gaza that read, "Even if we remain the only people in the world, we will still defend Gaza and Palestine."
The hackers also posted a verse from the Quran, the holy book of Islam, in Turkish, Arabic and English.
"And we shaded you with clouds and sent down to you manna and quails [saying], 'Eat from the good things with which we have provided you.' And they wronged us not – but they were [only] wronging themselves," the verse read.
Both The Times of Israel and Asia Times confirmed the attacks on their sites.
The cyberattacks occurred on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the Times of Israel noted. The 67-word Balfour Declaration was written by the British foreign secretary Lord Alfred Balfour in 1917 at the height of World War 1 publicly expressing Britain's support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The Times of Israel is the second-largest English language publication in the country.
"I assume it was not coincidental that this attack on The Times of Israel took place on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, a foundational document for the State of Israel," The Times of Israel's editor David Horovitz said. "How unfortunate, and how badly it reflects on them that the hackers seek to prevent people from reading responsible, independent journalism on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world."
Both The Times of Israel and Asia Times confirmed the cyberattacks on Twitter and said they were working to restore services "as soon as possible".
At the time of publication, the websites of both The Times of Israel and Asia Times were restored.
In March, the Akincila hacking group targeted a number of Dutch websites posting pro-Turkish and anti-European messages along with the photo of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, NL Times reported. Some websites were also hit with DDoS attacks.
Those cyberattacks came amid diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands triggered by Turkish efforts to hold political rallies in Dutch territory in support of a controversial pro-Erdogan constitutional referendum.
One message posted by the hackers at the time read, "Hey Europe, you often talk about democracy, human rights and freedom. But your fear of 'Great Turkey' shows your colonialist, racist and fascist crusade mentality and shows your true face."