Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
FILE – Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Yassin Mosque destroyed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike at Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)
In the days since Hamas militants stormed into Israel early Oct. 7, a flood of videos and photos purporting to show the conflict have filled social media, making it difficult for onlookers from around the world to sort fact from fiction.
While plenty of real imagery and accounts of the ensuing carnage have emerged, they have been intermingled with users pushing false claims and misrepresenting videos from other events.
Among the fabrications, users have shared false claims that a top Israeli commander had been kidnapped, circulated a false video imitating a BBC News report, and pushed old and unrelated clips of Russian President Vladimir Putin with inaccurate English captions.
Here is a closer look at the misinformation spreading online — and the facts.
CLAIM: Videos taken one day apart show a Palestinian “crisis actor” pretending to be seriously injured in a hospital bed one day and completely fine the next.
THE FACTS: Two different people appear in the videos. In addition, the video of the injured man in a hospital bed dates to August.
The videos are being shared to falsely claim an injured man is an actor playing a Palestinian victim.
A post on X, formerly known as Twitter, puts two videos side by side. In one, a man lies seriously injured in a hospital bed with two other men at his side. In the other, a man is talking into a camera while walking through wreckage after an attack in Gaza. The post claims the videos show the same man, with the one in the hospital taken a day earlier.
“Palestinian blogger ‘miraculously’ healed in one day from ‘Israeli bombing’. Yesterday, he was ‘hospitalized,’ today, he is walking and walking like nothing happened,” reads the post on X, with more than 9,000 likes.
But the videos show two different people and the hospital video predates the latest Israel-Hamas war.
The video of the man speaking to the camera is Saleh Aljafarawi, from Gaza. Aljafarawi posted the original video on Oct. 25 to his Instagram account. “More than 30 missiles landed in front of my eyes,” he wrote in the caption with the video. Aljafarawi didn’t respond to the AP’s request for comment. Aljafarawi also has a YouTube channel where he describes himself a Palestinian living in Gaza.
The video of the young man in the hospital bed had been online at least August with the earliest version available posted on Aug. 18, 2023, on TikTok. Another video from a different angle was shared a day earlier on TikTok.
One of the hashtags from the Aug. 18 video reads, “#Nour_Shams_Camp_”, which is a refugee camp located in the West Bank. An Aug. 25 report from the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led group, shows a photo of the same man in the hospital video. The report identifies him as 16-year-old Mohammed Zendiq, whose leg was amputated at the hospital after he was injured during July 24 clashes at the camp. Other outlets reported on the events at the time.
— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Los Angeles contributed this report.
CLAIM: A video shows a large number of U.S. Marines arriving at an airport in Israel amid the latest Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: The video is from 2022 and shows soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division arriving in Romania.
The footage shows soldiers dressed in fatigues getting off of a plane at night, carrying their belongings and walking across the tarmac.
One post with the video on X, formerly known as Twitter, had more than 9,000 likes with text that reads: “HAPPENING NOW: Thousands of U.S. Marines Just Landed in Israel WW3 HIGH ALERT”
However the video doesn’t show Marines nor Israel, and it isn’t recent.
The original can be found on the Defense Department’s media distribution website, which says it shows U.S. Army soldiers arriving in Romania in June last year. “101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers arrive in Mihail Kogainiceani, Romania, June 28, 2022,” reads the video’s description.
The site says the unit was there “to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank” and conduct multinational exercises with allies across Europe.
Hours after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, the U.S. did begin moving warships and aircrafts to the region. In an interview on “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris said the U.S. has no intention to send combat troops into Israel or Gaza.
— Karena Phan.
CLAIM: A major mosque in Iran raised a black flag to call Muslims to war over Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
THE FACTS: The Imam Reza shrine said the flag was raised as a symbol of mourning for the lives lost in Israel’s strikes on Gaza. Experts on Islam and Iran confirmed the flag includes a passage from the Quran that is meant to comfort Muslims that their sacrifices will one day be rewarded.
Social media users are sharing the false claim alongside images and videos of the distinctive gold dome of the shrine — a major pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims in Iran’s northeast that includes a mosque, library and other institutions — with a black banner flying on a flagpole.
“BREAKING: The Black Flag has been raised over Razavi Shrine in Mashhad, Khorasan province, Iran,” wrote one Facebook user who shared the image on Oct. 18, using an alternate name for the complex. “This is a call for war or vengeance.”
Others claimed the black flag and its Farsi inscription was meant to herald the coming of the Mahdi, the final leader believed to appear at the end of times to lead Muslim people.
But the black flag isn’t a call for war, and neither the flag’s text nor the shrine’s statement about the banner references the coming of the Mahdi or the end of time.
In fact, an announcement on the shrine’s English-language Facebook page on Oct. 17 specifically describes it as a “mourning flag” that was raised in response to the deadly blast that rocked a hospital in Hamas-controlled Gaza that day.
“In an unprecedented gesture and by the order of the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the black flag has been hoisted above the illuminated and pure Razavi dome, and drum beating will not be played tomorrow,” the post said, including #sorrow #mourning #sadness #grief and other hashtags.
Islamic and Iranian experts confirmed the flag includes a line from the Quran roughly translated as “help from Allah and an imminent victory” or “conquest from Allah and victory is near.”
That phrase isn’t traditionally used to declare war, but meant to bring comfort and hope to those struggling or engaged in battle that their sacrifice is not in vain and that Allah will grant them victory eventually, they said.
Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University in New York, said the Quranic verse, in the context of the shrine’s Facebook post, means “solidarity” with the Palestinian cause and not an outright declaration of war against Israel.
“To me it says nothing more than the obvious: the ruling government in Iran supports Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” he wrote in an email. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
The Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank founded by Israeli analysts, agreed, noting that Islamic militants tend to use a different passage from the Quran when declaring war.
The organization noted that statements from the Iran-backed Iraqi militias claiming responsibility for recent attacks on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq open with this Quranic verse: “Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to grant them victory.”
— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.
CLAIM: A video shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying in a speech that he blames President Joe Biden for the latest Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: The video is from 2020 and the version currently circulating online features incorrect English captions. The footage actually shows Kim celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party; he doesn’t reference the conflict in the Middle East or Biden at any point.
In the misleading video circulating online, the English captions claim Kim says: “Under the Biden administration, conflicts erupt yearly. This year a war begins between Israel and Palestine.”
“I’m afraid that if the Biden admin does not cease to exist in the next election, World War 3 may begin,” the captions continue. “Who knows what next year’s war will be. I support Donald Trump for President in 2024. Good Luck to Mr. Trump.”
The video was shared on Instagram and TikTok, where one post garnered more than 223,000 likes.
However, the video is old and the captions are completely inaccurate.
Clips and images from the same speech can be seen in news reports from October 2020 about an event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Korean Workers Party.
A transcript of the full speech translated to English by The National Committee on North Korea, a U.S.-based organization, does not mention anything about the Israel-Hamas war nor the 2024 U.S. presidential race.
Multiple Korean speakers and an expert who reviewed the portion of the speech circulating online also confirmed Kim says nothing of the sort in the footage.
Instead, Kim thanks his people and his military, saying: “The patriotic and heroic commitment shown by our People’s Army soldiers on the unexpected frontlines of epidemic prevention and natural disaster recovery this year is something that evokes tears of gratitude from everyone.”
Ji-Young Lee, a professor of Korean Studies at American University who confirmed the captions are inaccurate, noted that the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas militants did create concerns in South Korea about a similar assault from the North.
— Karena Phan.
CLAIM: The Israeli military confirmed it bombed a hospital in Gaza in a social media post written in Arabic.
THE FACTS: A screenshot circulating online shows a Facebook post from an account posing as the Israeli military. No such post exists on the military’s actual social media pages and its top Arabic-speaking spokesperson confirmed his office has issued no such statement.
In the wake of the Oct. 17 deadly blast at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, social media users shared the screenshot, claiming it is from a member of the Israeli military’s Arabic-speaking media relations team.
The user’s profile image bears the blue-and-white emblem of the spokesperson’s office, which features radio waves atop the Israeli military’s traditional symbol of an olive branch-wrapped sword.
The post, written in Arabic, suggests the Jewish nation said it bombed the hospital because the Gaza City medical facility lacked supplies and staff.
“Israeli official facebook post: ‘Due to the lack of medical equipment and the lack of medical staff, it was decided to bomb the Baptist Hospital in Gaza and give them euthanasia’,” wrote one user on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, in a post translating the screenshot. Similar posts were also widely shared on TikTok and other social media platforms.
But the purported statement wasn’t penned by the Israeli military’s press office, its top Arabic-speaking spokesperson confirmed this week.
“Just to clarify: I did not issue any statement or comment regarding the Baptist Hospital in Gaza,” wrote Avichay Adraee, head of the Arab media branch of the Israeli military’s Spokesperson’s Unit, in a post on X from Oct. 17, when the blast occurred. “All the news circulating in my name comes from the Hamas media outlets and is completely false.”
The office on Oct. 19 confirmed the post did not come from the military’s official Arabic page, saying in an emailed statement: “The IDF has made it very clear that there was no IDF strike on the hospital.”
What’s more, the Israeli military’s press office doesn’t use its own logo on its actual social media accounts, unlike the fake account.
The unit’s separate Facebook pages in English and Hebrew, as well as its X account written in Farsi, for example, all use the military’s main symbol. That gold-colored emblem features the olive branch-wrapped sword with the Star of David in the background.
Meanwhile Adraee’s social media accounts, which are the main channel for the Israeli military’s messages in Arabic, feature his profile picture and a maroonlogo consisting of five swords with flames in the background as its cover photo.
The original fake account and post on Facebook also appear to have been deleted as of Oct. 19. Spokespersons for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, didn’t reply to an email seeking comment.
There were conflicting accusations of who was responsible for the hospital blast, with Hamas officials in Gaza blaming an Israeli airstrike and Israel saying it was caused by a an errant rocket launched by Palestinian militants. U.S. and French intelligence services also concluded it was likely caused by a misfired rocket. An AP analysis of video, photos and satellite imagery, as well as consultation with experts, showed the cause was likely a rocket launched from Palestinian territory that misfired in the air and crashed to the ground. However, a definitive conclusion could not be reached.
— Philip Marcelo.
CLAIM: A video shows Qatar’s emir threatening to cut off the world’s natural gas supply if Israel doesn’t stop bombing Gaza.
THE FACTS: Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, says no such thing in the widely circulating clip, which is more than 6 years old. A spokesperson for the Qatari government also confirmed that neither the emir nor any other government official has threatened to cut off exports in response to the conflict.
Many online are sharing the video of the Persian Gulf nation’s ruler, falsely claiming it shows him saying in Arabic that he’s willing to halt the distribution of its gas reserves to achieve his desired end to the latest Israel-Hamas war.
“BREAKING: Qatar is threatening to create a global gas shortage in support of Palestine,” wrote one user who posted the video on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “If the bombing of Gaza doesn’t stop, we will stop gas supply of the world.”
But Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says nothing of the sort in the video. The 7-second clip is actually a tiny snippet from his opening speech at the Doha Forum in 2017.
Marc Owen Jones, a professor of Middle East studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha, the capital of Qatar, confirmed that the emir touches briefly on Palestinians in the widely shared clip, but doesn’t make any threats related to the current conflict.
Instead the emir, in his remarks, urged the international community to take more steps to address the region’s refugee crisis, news outlets reported at the time.
“The exact translation is: ‘The issue of Palestine, I’ll begin by saying it’s a case of a people uprooted from their lands, and displaced from their nation’,” Jones wrote in an email.
Qatar’s government on Oct. 16 confirmed the clip dates to 2017 and is being misrepresented.
“This is yet another case of an online disinformation against Qatar – such a statement has never been made and never would be,” wrote the country’s International Media Office in an email. “Qatar does not politicize its LNG supplies or any economic investment.”
Qatar is one of the world’s top natural gas producers. It controlled the third-largest natural gas reserves and was the second largest exporter of liquified natural gas, or LNG, in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What’s more, the country has been working in recent years to use its sizable resources to build ties with other nations, not antagonize them, according to experts.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a Boston-based company that tracks gas prices nationwide, pointed to a deal Qatar’s state energy company just announced to supply French energy company TotalEnergies with 3.5 million tons of natural gas annually for the next 27 years.
“Qatar has been securing investment since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed Europe to find new sources of natural gas and quickly,” he wrote in an email. “They’re making deals left and right.”
— Philip Marcelo.
___ CLAIM: A video shows a BBC News report confirming Ukraine provided weapons to Hamas.
THE FACTS: The widely shared video clip is fabricated, officials with the BBC and Bellingcat, an investigative news website that is cited in the video as the source, confirm.
The clip, which includes the BBC’s distinctive block-text logo, purports to show a story from the outlet about a recent report from Bellingcat on Ukraine providing arms to Hamas.
“Bellingcat: Ukrainian military offensive failure and HAMAS attack linked,” reads the text over the video, which has more than 2,500 comments and 110,000 views on the messaging service Telegram. “The Palestinians purchased firearms, ammunition, drones and other weapons.”
But neither the BBC nor Bellingcat has reported any evidence to support the notion that Ukraine funneled arms to Hamas.
“We’ve reached no such conclusions or made any such claims,” Bellingcat wrote Oct. 10 in a post on X that included screengrabs of the fake report. “We’d like to stress that this is a fabrication and should be treated accordingly.”
Eliot Higgins, the Amsterdam-based organization’s founder, noted in a separate post on X that the claims have been amplified by Russian social media users.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a New York University professor briefly shown near the end of the video, also disputed the clip’s suggestion that he’s said the U.S. might leave NATO if the arms claims prove true.
“Entirely fake. Never said that,” the distinguished professor of risk engineering wrote in an email.
Spokespersons for the BBC didn’t respond to emails seeking comment, but Shayan Sardarizadeh, a reporter with the organization’s fact checking unit, confirmed in a post on X that the video is not real.
Ukrainian officials have similarly dismissed the notion that its country’s arms have somehow found their way to Hamas. The country’s military intelligence agency, in an Oct. 9 post on its official Facebook page, accused Russia of plotting a disinformation campaign around these claims.
Experts say there is also no evidence of Hamas making any claims about receiving arms from Ukraine, nor would it make sense for Kyiv to provide them.
“I see no reason Ukraine would do this,” said Michael O’Hanlon, director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Starting with the fact that Kiev is in the business of obtaining weapons and not giving them away.”
— Associated Press writers Philip Marcelo in New York and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed this report.
CLAIM: Video of a young actor being filmed lying in a pool of fake blood shows propaganda being created for use in the Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: The video is behind-the-scenes footage from the making of “Empty Place,” a short film focused on the story of Ahmad Manasra, a Palestinian who was arrested at age 13 in 2015 in relation to the stabbing of two Israelis.
Social media users on both sides of the latest Israel-Hamas war are sharing the video, each falsely alleging that it’s proof the other group is creating propaganda about their own.
In the clip, a young actor lies on a sidewalk covered in fake blood, his right leg bent backward, as a film crew works around him. Other actors mill about dressed as soldiers and in garb worn by many Orthodox Jewish men.
“See how Israelis are making fake videos saying that Palestine Freedom Fighters killed children,” reads one tweet that had received more than 5,600 likes and more than 4,400 shares as of Oct. 11.
An Instagram post claimed the opposite, stating: “These terrorists are dressing up as JEWISH soldiers to create fake videos about Israeli soldiers! Faking Propaganda!”
But neither allegation is correct. The video shows footage from the making of the 2022 short film directed by Awni Eshtaiwe, a filmmaker based in the West Bank. The scene being shot begins about 1 minute and 10 seconds into the approximately 2 minute film.
Mohamad Awawdeh, a cinematographer listed in the film’s credits as a camera assistant, posted the behind-the-scenes footage to TikTok in April 2022, around the time the film was released. A caption on the post, written in Arabic, explains that the scene being filmed in the video shows Manasra being attacked. Awawdeh posted the same footage to Instagram on June 30.
— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.
CLAIM: Nimrod Aloni, a top general in the Israeli army, was captured by Hamas militants during a deadly incursion Oct. 7 into southern Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.
THE FACTS: There’s no truth to this claim, a spokesperson for the Israeli military confirmed. Aloni was seen Oct. 8 at a meeting of top Israeli military officials.
The erroneous claim that Aloni was one of the hostages taken by Hamas spread widely online after the militant group attacked Israel.
“Palestinian resistance fighters capture Israeli commander Nimrod Aloni along with dozens of other Israeli soldiers as the resistance fighters attacked neighbouring occupied towns and Israeli check posts near Gaza,” stated one Instagram post that received more than 43,000 likes.
But Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief military spokesman, told reporters Oct. 7 that claims Aloni was captured are “not true.”
Aloni clearly appears 10 seconds into a video posted to the Israeli military’s official YouTube channel of top officials discussing the war on Oct. 8. The date can be seen on a slide in the background. The military also published online four images from the meeting. The one on the lower right shows Aloni on the far right.
The Israeli army confirmed to The Associated Press that Aloni is the man in the video and image.
— Melissa Goldin.
CLAIM: A video shows Hamas fighters parachuting onto a sports field before attacking Israeli citizens during the group’s surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
THE FACTS: While Hamas did employ paragliders to get some fighters across the border between Gaza and southern Israel, the footage of the sports field shows parachute jumpers in Cairo and has been online since at least September.
The clip shows people strapped to multi-colored parachutes descending onto a crowded sports field complex filled with children and families, many in red sports jerseys.
“Hamas paraglided amongst Israeli citizens and proceeded to massacre them,” text on the video clip reads. One post of the misleading footage on TikTok was viewed more than 38,000 times.
But this footage has been online since at least Sept. 27, when it was posted to TikTok with the location tag “Egypt.”
Details of the video also point to Egypt as the location — a person is wearing a blue shirt that reads “El Nasr SC” on the back, the name of a sporting club in northeastern Cairo.
Images of the club on Google Maps match the scene of the video — as well as several other clips of the event from the same TikTok user — with both showing a bright blue fence around a sporting ground next to a paved area with green and blue plastic seats.
The parachuters land on a larger soccer pitch surrounded by tall field lights. The field matches photos posted to the club’s Facebook page and footage of its soccer team’s matches, including a distinctive red building with a blue fence on top at one end that can be seen in the TikTok clip at around 19 seconds.
Other TikTok users shared footage of a parachuting similar scene around the same time, with “El Nasr” in the caption in Arabic.
The crowd of onlookers in the clip circulating online also doesn’t seem distressed by the arrival of the parachuters, as one might expect if they were an invading force. In fact, many women and children are seen running towards them, phones in hand taking videos and photos of the aerial display.
CLAIM: Two videos show Russian President Vladimir Putin warning the U.S. to “stay away” from the latest Israel-Hamas war.
THE FACTS: Bothvideos circulating online are months-old clips of Putin speaking about the Russia-Ukraine war, not the conflict in the Middle East, which have been miscaptioned in English.
Both videos show Putin speaking in Russian, with false English captions saying he was warning the U.S. to refrain from helping the Jewish state.
“America wants to Destroy israel as we destroy ukraine In past,” the captions on one video state. “I am warning America. Russia will help palestine and america can do nothing.” One TikTok post that shared the clip had received approximately 11,600 views as of Oct. 9.
A caption on another video of Putin, filmed in a different location, similarly reads: “I am warning america to stay Away from palestine israel war.”
But the two clips long predate the latest Israel-Hamas war and make no mention of Israel at all.
The first shows Putin at a meeting of Russia’s Human Rights Council in December 2022, where, amid discussions about the war in Ukraine, he responded to a question about the country’s potential use of nuclear weapons, as the AP reported at the time. The footage was featured by multiple other newsoutlets with similar translations.
In the second, Putin is speaking at a February 2023 event marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II Soviet victory over Nazi German forces in the battle of Stalingrad. In his remarks, he compared this threat to Germany’s then-recent decision to supply Ukraine with tanks, the AP reported at the time. Several media outlets also featured the footage in similar reports.
In reality, Putin has condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on towns in southern Israel while also warning Israel against blockading the Gaza Strip. He has cast the war as a failure of U.S. peacemaking efforts, accusing Washington of opting for economic “handouts” to the Palestinians while abandoning efforts to help create a Palestinian state.
— Melissa Goldin.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.