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Israel-Hamas War Misinformation Tracking Center: 92 Myths About the Conflict and Counting

From doctored war videos to fabricated White House memos, NewsGuard is monitoring and reporting on the false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims relating to the conflict

By Natalie Adams, Sara Badilini, Jack Brewster, Hilary Hersh, Sam Howard, Natalie Huet, Chine Labbe, Eva Maitland, Coalter Palmer, Valerie Pavilonis, Virginia Padovese, Madeline Roache, McKenzie Sadeghi, Becca Schimmel, Roberta Schmid, Nikita Vashisth, Chiara Vercellone, and Macrina Wang | Last updated Feb. 9, 2024

 

Within hours of Palestinian militant group Hamas carrying out an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, a barrage of misinformation relating to the conflict blanketed social media and websites, reaching millions of people. 

To date, NewsGuard’s global team of misinformation analysts have identified 92 myths spreading across social media, and identified 324 sites spreading those myths.

Tracking 324 Websites Spreading Israel-Hamas War Misinformation

  • English-language websites: 181
  • French-language websites: 18
  • German-language websites: 8
  • Italian-language websites: 16
  • Other: 101

NewsGuard has found that social media accounts and sites on both sides of the conflict have spread manipulated or AI generated images or video as real, and taken war footage out of context. In October, a NewsGuard analysis found that 74 percent of the most viral misinformation about the war on X (formerly Twitter) was published by “verified,” blue-check accounts. 

Bad actors including authoritarian governments have also capitalized on the war to advance disinformation that could have an impact on wider geopolitical conflicts. In one of the most prominent false narratives spreading about the war, Kremlin-owned media outlets, joined by far-right U.S.-based commentators, baselessly claimed that Ukraine sold donated Western weapons to Hamas. The social media campaign appeared to be an attempt to undermine international support for Ukraine.

These false claims are included in NewsGuard’s Misinformation Fingerprints catalog, which includes false claims and their debunking, covering all the most significant misinformation spreading online. This database, in human- and machine-readable formats, is available for licensing.

Researchers, platforms, advertisers, generative AI models, government agencies, or other institutions interested in accessing the full list of war-related myths or the Misinformation Fingerprints database can contact us here.

In this Tracking Center, NewsGuard will also post other aspects of our coverage of the war, including reporting on how false or misleading claims are spreading on social media and the Web.

By Jack Brewster

Below are excerpts from a selection of false narratives from our on-going reporting, and their corresponding debunks:

MYTH: Conclusive evidence has determined that Israel was behind the October 2023 Gaza hospital blast

THE FACTS:

Although as of mid-November 2023, there was no absolutely dispositive evidence establishing who was responsible for the Oct. 17, 2023, blast at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, mounting evidence — including reports from the U.S. intelligence community, independent experts, and visual investigations by multiple news outlets — contradicts definitive claims that Israel was responsible.

The hospital blast quickly became a heated point of contention with supporters of Israel and Palestinians blaming the other side. Soon after the blast, anti-Israel demonstrations erupted across the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Tunisia.

However, in an Oct. 18, 2023, statement, U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that a U.S. government assessment “based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information” found that “Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza.” On Oct. 24, 2023, U.S. intelligence officials, citing video footage and geolocation techniques, stated that they had “high confidence” that Israel was not responsible for the blast.

Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees issued statements saying that they had reviewed the U.S. intelligence assessment and were “confident” that the blast was not the result of Israeli military action.

Canada, France, and the U.K. came to the same conclusion. For example, Canadian Minister of National Defense Bill Blair said in an Oct. 21, 2023, statement: “Analysis conducted independently by the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command indicates with a high degree of confidence that Israel did not strike the hospital on October 17, 2023. The more likely scenario is that the strike was caused by an errant rocket fired from Gaza.”

Moreover, visual investigations by The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The Associated Press all concluded that the blast was more likely to have been caused by a malfunctioning rocket launched from Gaza than by an Israeli airstrike. “A video analysis by the Wall Street Journal using security cameras and live feeds inside Israel and Gaza shows how a failed rocket caused the deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 21, 2023.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post stated that its own visual investigation, coupled with analysis by experts, “provides circumstantial evidence that could bolster the contention by Israel and the U.S. government that a stray rocket launched by a Palestinian armed group was responsible for the Oct. 17 explosion.”

Reports from The BBC and The New York Times also noted that the crater from the hospital blast was not consistent with damage caused by Israeli bombs, which typically weigh 2,000 pounds. “The damage is too light to be from a 2,000-pound bomb,” Julian Barnes, an intelligence reporter at The New York Times, wrote in an article about the blast.

At the same time, The New York Times has raised questions about some of the evidence that has been cited as pointing away from Israel’s culpability. The Times wrote in an Oct. 24, 2023, report that Al Jazeera footage that was cited by U.S. and Israeli officials actually shows a missile detonating about two miles from the hospital, and so could not be responsible for the blast.

“The Times’s finding does not answer what actually did cause the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital blast, or who is responsible,” the Times article stated. “The contention by Israeli and American intelligence agencies that a failed Palestinian rocket launch is to blame remains plausible. But the Times analysis does cast doubt on one of the most publicized pieces of evidence that Israeli officials have used to make their case and complicates the straightforward narrative they have put forth.”

CNN, which published its own reporting about the Al Jazeera footage on Nov. 2, 2023, stated that the Times report about the Al Jazeera footage does not invalidate CNN’s conclusion that the source of the blast was likely an errant rocket. “While the new analysis adds to the evolving picture of what happened, it does not alter CNN’s earlier findings that the blast was likely caused by a malfunctioning rocket, not an Israeli airstrike,” CNN reported.

Nonetheless, Hamas and the governments of several Middle Eastern countries, notably Iran, have unequivocally blamed Israel for the hospital blast. However, they have yet to produce any evidence proving Israel’s culpability.

Correction: A previous version of this Misinformation Fingerprint overstated the findings of visual investigations by Le Monde, Bellingcat, and The Washington Post. While those investigations pointed away from Israel as responsible for the hospital blast, they did not reach firm conclusions as to who was responsible. References to Le Monde and Bellingcat have been removed, and The Washington Post’s findings have been described in more detail. NewsGuard apologizes for the error.

NewsGuard made the full version of this Misinformation Fingerprint available to the public on Nov. 13. You can read the full text of the Fingerprint here

By Valerie Pavilonis

MYTH: Video footage shows Palestinians faking injuries from the Israel-Hamas War

THE FACTS:

The video footage, which in part shows a woman in a pink hijab applying makeup to people to make them appear bloody, was not shot during the Israel-Hamas War.

The footage, which was posted in 2017 by Turkish state-run broadcaster TRT World, filmed a makeup artist’s work for Palestinian films. “There are not many film productions in the Gaza Strip,” the video’s caption on YouTube states. “But that didn’t stop makeup artist Mariam Salah from following her dream. She taught herself to make fake blood for Palestinian films breaking into a business traditionally run by men.” The video was posted on March 2, 2017 — more than six years before the Israel-Hamas War began in October 2023.

By Valerie Pavilonis

MYTH: Hamas passed off a video of a doll as a child killed by an Israeli Defense Forces attack on Gaza

THE FACTS:

In October 2023, the Israeli government and pro-Israel commentators claimed that Hamas tried to pass off a doll as a Palestinian child killed by an Israeli army attack in Gaza. However, there is no evidence that the body shown in the video being carried out of a hospital in the video is a doll and not an actual deceased child.

The video’s original poster and the BBC identified the child as four-year-old Palestinian Omar Bilal Al-Banna, claiming he was killed by Israeli missiles. Agence France-Presse photographer Mohammed Abed, who was also on the scene, told French news outlet AFP that the body was a Palestinian child killed by Israeli airstrikes.

The video was first posted by Palestinian photographer Momen El Halabi on Instagram, NewsGuard found through a reverse image search. El Halabi told Indian news outlet India Today that the child had lived in the Al Zaytoun neighborhood in east Gaza. El Halabi told India Today that Al-Banna and his brother Majid, who El Halabi said was injured and is recuperating, were brought into the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Oct. 12, 2023.

India Today posted what it described as evidence that El-Halabi provided to verify Al-Banna’s identity, which included a close-up photo purportedly of Al-Banna dead in the hospital and a photo said to be of Al-Banna when he was younger. NewsGuard found that the photos of Al-Banna closely resembled the body in the widely-shared video.

BBC reporter Marianna Spring also verified Al-Banna’s identity, reporting that she saw footage of Omar’s brother Majid stating that Omar was killed when they were playing outside. According to Majid, a strike had hit their neighbor’s house, and the resulting rubble fell on Omar. Spring interviewed the boys’ mother Yasmeen, who said that lies about the “killing of children and innocent people are untrue and fake. They have no right to say he is a doll.”

Additionally, Gaza-based AFP photographer Mohammed Abed photographed the child outside of al-Shifa Hospital that day, French outlet Libération and other fact-checking outlets reported. NewsGuard confirmed that the dead body captured in Abed’s photos, which were posted on Getty Images, matched the body in the video. For example, the photos depicted a forehead wound in the same place, and the child in the photo is being held by the same bearded man, who wore a gray polo shirt with a red emblem.

The caption on one of Abed’s photos said it was taken outside of a morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Oct. 12, and that the child, and other pictured corpses, were “victims of Israeli air strikes.” Abed also told AFP, “The child’s face is deathly pale. It is the body of a real child, killed after an aerial bombardment, certainly not a doll.”

Traits that might make the child seem “doll-like” can be explained by common Muslim funeral rituals. Moussa Abou Ramadan, professor of Muslim law and Islamology at the University of Strasbourg, told AFP that “Among Muslims, we wash [the corpse], we cover it with the shroud, we put cotton in the nose, in the ears. This is done in Palestine.”

By Macrina Wang

MYTH: Ukraine sold Hamas weapons that were donated from the West

THE FACTS:

Claims that Western weapons donated to Ukraine to fight Russia were used by Palestinian militant group Hamas in its large-scale invasion of Israel in October 2023, are baseless. A video that spread widely on social media after the invasion purported to show Hamas thanking Ukraine for sending them Western weapons. The video shows about half a dozen guns and grenades placed haphazardly on a floor, with a voice saying in Arabic, “We thank the Ukrainian authorities for sending us these weapons. We will use these weapons against you, enemies.”

However, there is no indication that weapons shown in a video came from Ukraine. Moreover, there is no evidence that Ukraine sent Western weapons to Hamas, or that weapons were illegally trafficked out of Ukraine, according to arms trade experts.

“We have seen no compelling evidence of international trafficking of weapons exported to Ukraine since February 2022,” Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher at the Small Arms Survey, a research project at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, told NewsGuard in an Oct. 10, 2023 email.

Additionally, in February 2023, Robert Storch, the Pentagon’s inspector general, told Congress that his office had not found evidence that Western weapons in Ukraine had been diverted.

Ukraine’s Military Media Center, which is coordinated by the country’s Defense Ministry, has denied that Ukraine could have sold weapons to Hamas, “because our Western partners closely monitor the weapons and military equipment that they supply us to fight against the Russian aggressor.”

Pro-Kremlin social media accounts also shared a fake BBC video, claiming that investigative news outlet Bellingcat revealed Ukraine smuggled arms to Hamas. The BBC and Bellingcat have denied having anything to do with the video and such reports. “The video is 100% fake. Neither BBC News nor Bellingcat have reported that,” BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh said in an Oct. 11, 2023, post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Frank Slijper, an arms trade researcher with PAX, a Netherlands-based organization that works to protect civilians from armed violence, said in an Oct. 10, 2023, email to NewsGuard that such claims were “aimed at driving a wedge in societies supporting Ukraine (and beyond).”

By Madeline Roache

MYTH: Israel staged footage showing the death of a child killed by Hamas strike

THE FACTS:

In October 2023, a video showing a film crew gathered around a child on the ground circulated on TikTok and X, formerly known as Twitter. The child appeared to be pretending to be dead, with blood in a puddle under their head and their limbs splayed. Many commentators stated that the footage proved that Israel was staging child deaths to blame on Hamas, the militant organization that launched a major attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, that led to a declaration of war by Israel.

In fact, the video was actually posted to TikTok on April 21, 2022, more than a year before Hamas’ attack, and shows behind-the-scenes filming of a Palestinian short film called “Empty Place,” according to an April 27, 2022, fact-check by Reuters. The director of the film, Awni Eshtaiwe, confirmed to Reuters that the footage was from his film. “Behind the scenes of filming the scene of the settlers’ enemies attacking the child Ahmad Manasra,” the TikTok video’s caption states, as translated from Arabic.

The film is presented as a recreation of events that riled Israel in 2015 and continue to reverberate. It focuses on the story of Ahmad Manasra, a Palestinian who, in 2015, at age 13, accompanied his cousin to East Jerusalem, where the cousin allegedly stabbed an Israeli man and wounded an Israeli boy. According to press accounts at the time, the cousin was killed by police, while Manasra was hit by a car and beaten. Manasra was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In short, while the footage apparently is based on real events, it does not show the staged murder of an Israeli child.

By Valerie Pavilonis

MYTH: The Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza was destroyed by Israeli bombing

THE FACTS:

The St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza was not destroyed in Israel’s initial military response to attacks by Hamas in early October 2023.

The church, the oldest church in Gaza, wrote in an Oct. 9, 2023, Facebook post: “We would like to inform you that Saint Porphyrios Church in Gaza is untouched and operating in service of the community and our congregation. The news circulating about it being damaged are false.”

However, an Israeli airstrike subsequently damaged the church’s campus on Oct. 19, 2023, according to reports in several news outlets that included The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, and Reuters. The Times wrote that the airstrike did not damage St. Porphyrios’ chapel, but added that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry reported an unverified death toll of at least 16 people. Former Libertarian U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Palestinian-American, wrote on Oct. 20, 2023, on X that the airstrike killed “several” of his relatives.

The Israel Defense Forces told the BBC in a statement it was targeting a nearby Hamas installation: “As a result of the IDF strike, a wall of a church in the area was damaged. We are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review.”

Editor’s Note: This Misinformation Fingerprint was updated on Oct. 23, 2023, to include details of a subsequent Israeli airstrike on Oct. 19 that reportedly led to at least 16 deaths and damaged part of the church’s campus.

By Sam Howard

MYTH: An image shows Israeli Defense Forces holding a flag with Nazi swastikas

THE FACTS:

Despite claims from pro-Russian social media users, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were not photographed holding a flag with several Nazi swastikas in October 2023.

The photo was digitally altered, according to a reverse image search by NewsGuard using Google Images. NewsGuard found that the original photo, which was published by Israeli media in June 2023, in fact showed Israeli Defense Forces holding the yellow and green flag of the Golani Brigade – the Israeli division of which the soldiers belonged to – and the Israeli flag.

The picture was taken on June 5, 2023, when 12 soldiers from the Golani Brigade, one of Israel’s elite military units, participated for the first time in an international military exercise in Morocco, according to reports about the exercise from The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. The U.S.-led exercise, known as African Lion, was carried out in May and June 2023 and included forces from 12 nations, according to the U.S. Army’s website.

By Chiara Vercellone

MYTH: A White House memo shows that the U.S. is sending $8 billion in military aid to Israel

THE FACTS:

The memo is a fake. The document, which was formatted to resemble other memos posted on the White House website, is a doctored version of either a June 27, 2023, or a July 25, 2023, White House memo announcing up to $400 million and $500 million in aid to Ukraine, according to reporting by NBC and a NewsGuard analysis of both memos.

The fabricated memo, which purported to be from U.S. President Joe Biden and was dated as having been issued on Oct. 7, 2023, stated that President Biden had authorized U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “to direct the drawdown of up to $8 billion in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Israel and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown.”

White House officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the memo is a fabrication.

The United States typically provides Israel with more than $3 billion in annual military aid, and the Biden administration on Oct. 8 announced plans to send new weapons shipments to Israel. However, there is no evidence that the Biden administration has authorized an additional $8 billion military package to the country.

Correction: An earlier version of this Misinformation Fingerprint incorrectly stated the date of a July 2023 White House memo that may have been doctored to create the fabricated memo. It was published on July 25, 2023. NewsGuard apologizes for the error.

By Coalter Palmer

MYTH: The Biden administration gave $6 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Iran

THE FACTS:

Contrary to the claim, none of the $6 billion made available to Iran comes from U.S. taxpayers. On Sept. 11, 2023, the Biden Administration informed Congress that as part of a prisoner swap with Iran, the U.S. would unfreeze $6 billion worth of sanctioned Iranian oil profits that was being held in South Korea. The money would be transferred to an account controlled by the central bank of Qatar, which would ensure that Iran used the funds for humanitarian purposes.

Fact-checking site VerifyThis.com assessed the same claim on Oct. 9, 2023. “Iran has recently gained access to roughly $6 billion, but the money does not come from the United States government,” the site wrote. “It is a payment from South Korea to Iran for oil and gas, which U.S. sanctions effectively froze mid-transaction. In September, the U.S. agreed to unfreeze it as part of prisoner release negotiations.”

By Valerie Pavilonis

MYTH: Video shows Israeli senior officials captured by Hamas in October 2023

THE FACTS:

A video shared widely on social media does not show Israeli senior officials captured by Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, contrary to widespread claims advanced by social media users and Iranian state-run news outlets. In fact, the footage is unrelated to the Israel-Hamas war and shows Azerbaijan’s state security service detaining separatist leaders, a reverse image search by NewsGuard and other researchers found.

Azerbaijan security services first shared the footage to its YouTube channel Oct. 5, 2023, two days before Hamas attacked Israel, in a video titled “Persons organizing the activities of illegal armed groups in Karabakh were arrested.” An Oct. 5, 2023, statement from Azerbaijan’s state security service about the arrests, accused members of the Karabakh separatist group of committing acts of terrorism and supplying “illegal armed groups” with weapons and other military equipment.

Moreover, the men in military uniform can be seen wearing a DTX logo on their uniform, which, according to the official Republic of Azerbaijan’s government website, is a symbol of the Azerbaijan security service.

By Becca Schimmel

Below is a selection of NewsGuard's reports and research related to the Israel-Hamas War: