Home » News » FACT FOCUS: Misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war is flooding social media. Here are the facts

By The Associated Press , published on October 19, 2023

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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 on 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: 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 six 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 Palestine 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.”


— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.


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’d 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: The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrios was destroyed during Israel’s bombing of Gaza.


THE FACTS: Officials with the church confirmed that the structure remains intact and unharmed amid the shelling.


Posts circulating on social media falsely claimed that the holy Christian site, located in the al-Zaytun section of Gaza’s Old City, had become a casualty in the conflict.


“Israel just blew up the third oldest church in the word,” wrote an Instagram user. “Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza was 1,616 years old.”


But the house of worship remained standing as of Oct. 15, according to church officials who have taken to social media to debunk the false narrative.


In email replies Oct. 12, officials confirmed the church would host worship services the next morning. They also referred The Associated Press to the regular updates that have been posted on the church Facebook page.


A post on the page in Arabic on Oct. 10 said the church remains “untouched and operating” to assist the congregation and broader community in Gaza, and that claims circulating online about it being damaged are false. Another post showed a service taking place in the space on Oct. 15.


— Philip Marcelo 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.


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 Israel Defense Forces 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 IDF’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 IDF officials discussing the war on Oct. 8. The date can be seen on a slide in the background. The IDF 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 contributed this report.


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: Though 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, Egypt, 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 toward 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: Both videos 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.


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Oct. 9 that Russia is “extremely concerned” by the “spiral of violence” in Israel. Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to Israel and Egypt, told the state Tass agency Oct. 7 that Moscow has been in touch with “all parties (of the conflict), including Arab countries” and was urging for “an immediate cease-fire and peace.”


— Melissa Goldin contributed this report.


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.

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