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Israel-Palestine war: These posts are fake or misleading

From footage of Algerian football celebrations falsely posted as Gaza bombings to fake Taliban and White House statements, misinformation is spreading like wildfire
Misleading posts about the Israel-Palestine war, superimposed over an Israeli army self-propelled howitzer firing rounds in southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, on 11 October 2023 (MEE/AFP)

As war between Israel and Palestinian groups enters a fifth day, misinformation about the events is spreading like wildfire on social media. 

Israeli forces have rained down a barrage of air strikes on the Gaza Strip this week, killing at least 950 people.

It came after Hamas launched a surprise multi-front assault on Israeli communities on Saturday, firing thousands of rockets and sending fighters into Israel across land, air and sea. More than 1,200 Israelis have been killed, and around 130 people taken captive back to Gaza.

The escalating situation is playing out in real-time online, particularly on X (formerly known as Twitter). But scores of posts going viral on social media are either completely false or misleading.

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X, appeared to add to the problem on Sunday, by urging users (in a now deleted post) to stay up to date on the situation in Israel and Palestine by following two accounts known for previously peddling misinformation.

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Much of the misinformation has been published by accounts with blue checkmarks, which signify a user has purchased a premium X subscription for $8 per month.

The blue ticks have given the posts a veneer of authenticity, and ensured they appear high on users' timelines, irrespective of accuracy. 

False assertions include purported bombings in Gaza that actually show Algerian football fans, a fake Taliban spokesperson claiming the Afghan group is joining Hamas's war efforts, and video game footage passed off as air strikes. 

Middle East Eye debunks some of the misleading posts that have gone viral in recent days:

Attacks that didn't happen

A video posted by right-wing commentator Ian Miles Cheong claimed Hamas fighters were going from house to house killing all the people inside the houses.

ian miles cheong tweet

Users were quick to point out that the video he posted was actually of Israeli police, based on their uniforms. A "community note" was eventually added to the post by X to point out the inaccuracy, before it was eventually deleted by Cheong.

Elsewhere, blue-tick accounts claimed that Israel had bombed the Church of Saint Porphyrius, the oldest church in Gaza.

https://x.com/ShaykhSulaiman/status/1711430095963853072?s=20

The church took to Facebook to clarify that the reports were false - and that it had in fact opened its doors to people displaced by Israel's bombing campaign in the besieged enclave. 

One video claiming to show "Hamas fighters shooting down Israel war helicopter in Gaza" - was actually footage from the video game Arma 3. 

Clips from the same video game were falsely posted by far-right Britain First leader Paul Golding as Israel "about to rain down hellfire on Gaza". 

Another post spuriously claimed that Israel had approved a "tactical nuclear strike on the Gaza Strip". The claim was false, and the footage shared was of nuclear testing in the United States several decades ago. 

Syria bombings and Algerian football 

Several false videos widely shared on social media purport to show the conflict originate in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, or showed old footage in Israel and Palestine.

A tweet from an India-based blue-tick account with nearly 400,000 followers appeared to show a mosque being bombed, with the caption: "Israel should have let the adhaan [call to prayer] be complete," with a laughing emoji.

The post (which is still up, with no community note) actually shows a mosque destroyed by the Islamic State militant group in Raqqa, Syria in 2014. 

In another clip that originates from Syria, blue-tick accounts claimed to show Hamas fighters laughing, before an Israeli bomb is dropped. 

The original video was posted on YouTube at least four years ago, and appears to show an attack on a convoy in Syria. 

Avichay Adraee, an Israeli military spokesperson for Arab media, posted a video with multiple pieces of footage, purporting to show Israel bombing Gaza. 

The first of those clips instead shows Syrian government forces bombing the city of Ariha in the rebel-held Idlib province of northwest Syria. 

Elsewhere, an Indian-based verified account claimed to show Israel responding to Hamas with air strikes, commenting: "well done... great retaliation". 

https://x.com/greenysoulin/status/1711029992996421645?s=20

But the video didn't show that at all: it was a video of Algerian football fans celebrating the football club Belouizdad winning the domestic league title earlier this year. 

jim ferguson post on x

Some footage shared online did show Israeli bombings on Gaza, but were not from recent days.

A post by a right-wing British political candidate, Jim Ferguson, purporting to show Israel "hit[ting] back", was footage from a Gaza tower block being bombed during Israel's May 2021 offensive

Another post, by Shurat HaDin, a pro-Israel legal centre, claimed to be Israel "striking terror targets in Gaza". While it did show an Israeli strike on Gaza, it originated from 13 May, as reported by open source journalist Chris Osieck. 

False stories about children and babies 

Several false or misleading videos relating to the mistreatment of babies and children during the conflict have also emerged.

American-Israeli lawyer and Republican official Mark Zell posted a video claiming to show a Jewish baby kidnapped by a "Hamas terrorist".

But the video was shared on TikTok in September, and is completely unrelated to the current situation in Gaza. 

Elsewhere, a blue-tick account posted a video of cameras filming a child actor on the floor, as evidence of Israelis "making fake videos saying that Palestine Freedom Fighters killed children". 

The video is actually from a Palestinian short film called Empty Place, directed by Awni Eshtaiwe, which is based on the imprisonment of Palestinian detainee Ahmed Manasra. 

Another widely circulated video claimed to show Israeli children "kidnapped and kept in cages by Hamas". 

There is no evidence to suggest such a thing happened.

While it's not immediately clear from where or when the footage originates, it was posted on TikTok on 4 October - before Palestinian fighters attacked Israel. 

Purported Taliban and US support

Another false tweet - from a now suspended account claiming to represent the Taliban's public relations department - claimed that the Afghan group had asked the governments of Iran, Iraq and Jordan for passage so they could join the war effort in Gaza. 

false taliban tweet
Tweet from an account purporting to belong to a Taliban spokesperson (Screengrab/X)

The false report, which was even reported in the Jerusalem Post, was denied by a Taliban spokesperson on Saturday. The blue-tick account which posted it has now been suspended.

In another example of false reports about expressions of international support, a doctored image purported to show a memorandum written by US President Joe Biden in which he approved $8bn in military aid to Israel in response to the situation. 

The claim is completely made up, and was debunked in a fact-check by AFP. No such memorandum was written by the White House, which confirmed in a statement that the letter was fake. 

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