‘Fake’ casualties, old visuals: Misinformation around Israel-Hamas war

‘Fake’ casualties, old visuals: Misinformation around Israel-Hamas war

By: soham shah&
October 23 2023

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‘Fake’ casualties, old visuals: Misinformation around Israel-Hamas war

A Palestinian man sets the damages after Israeli strikes on the towers, of Al-Zahra City central Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. (Photo by Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

As the deadly Israel-Hamas war enters its third week, over 5,000 people have died on both sides —  Over 4,300 people in Gaza and nearly 1,400 in Israel. Israel has reportedly been considering a ground invasion into Gaza, but according to reports, the U.S. has advised them against it to get more time for hostage negotiation and sending humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The deadliest war between Israel and Hamas in decades has also led to a surge in mis/disinformation online. From unrelated videos, video game footage to unsubstantiated claims around "fake casualties," Logically Facts has been tracking narratives and debunking them as the war rages on. 

Misinformation around the Gaza hospital bombing 

On October 17, 2023, a major explosion in the parking area of the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza city killed 471, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The U.S. intelligence, however, says the number is between 100-300. Hamas insists that the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike, but the Israel Defence Force (IDF) claims that it was a result of a failed rocket strike by the Palestine Islamic Jihad.

While it is unclear what caused the explosion, a video shows an airborne weapon exploding mid-air, followed by a blast on the ground moments later. Various investigations based on open source visuals suggest have given contradicting opinions. This confusion fueled misinformation online.

Amid this, a video from August 2022 was shared with the claim that it showed the rocket that hit the hospital. Posts falsely claiming that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had reported that the bomb dropped on the hospital was an American MK-84 were also shared on social media. We found that the WSJ never reported any such news. 

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Post sharing misinformation around the Al-Ahli hospital bombing (Source:X, Facebook/Modified by Logically Facts)

Another fake post from a purported-IDF Arabia social media account saying, “Due to the lack of medical tools and the lack of medical staff, we decided to bomb the Baptist Hospital in Gaza and grant them euthanasia,” was also shared. Logically Facts found that the account was impersonating an IDF account, and that the IDF had made no such claim. 

Narratives around Egypt and humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid is being sent through the Rafah Border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt is the only country, other than Israel, to share a border with the Gaza strip. It has brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine in the past and is one of the Arab nation in the Middle East to have ties with Israel. It has also provided safe haven to refugees. In this backdrop, there has been misinformation around Egypt’s stance in the current war as well. 

Old videos from 2014 in Russia and September 2023 in Egypt-Libya border have been shared as videos showing humanitarian aid entering Gaza from Egypt. A two-month video of parents at the oath-taking ceremony of young soldiers in Azerbaijan was shared as Gazans fleeing in huge numbers to Egypt. Two old clips were strung together and shared with a claim that Egyptian Bedouin Muslims were travelling to Gaza to join the fight against Israeli forces. We found that the clips had no relation to the current conflict. 

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Misinformation narratives around Egypt (Source: X, Facebook, TikTok/Modified by Logically Facts)

Claims suggesting civilians faking injuries and death

Another narrative that has emerged in the last two weeks is the attempt to paint the casualties reported in the conflict as "fake." Social media users have been discrediting the loss of life in Gaza alleging that the casualties have been "staged," as seen in this claim by the official account of the State of Israel. The post suggested that the man was carrying a doll and not a corpse. However, we found that the photo was of a child who had lost his life in Gaza. 

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Misinformation around "fake deaths." (Source:X/Modified by Logically Facts)

In another instance, an old video from a symbolic protest that was held in Egypt by students in 2013 was shared with a claim that Hamas was faking deaths, as "dead bodies" could be seen moving in the video. Another video from 2017 was shared with a similar claim. But the fact is that it is from 2017 and shows a make-up artist taking part in a project by the Doctors of the World to create awareness about the dangers experienced by Gaza residents. 

Video game footage shared as real

As is the situation with conflicts, we found footage from video games, specifically Arma 3, being falsely shared as real footage. It is easy for such footage to spread rapidly as modern video games have ultra-high quality graphics that pass off as genuine visuals.
Footage from Arma 3 shared as real (Source:X/Modified by Logically Facts)

A video showing a soldier shooting down a helicopter using a handheld surface-to-air missile was shared with captions like, "BREAKING – Hamas militants started a new air assault on parts of Israel !!! (sic)” and a video of a supposed air-assault on Israel. We found that both these clips were from the video game Arma 3.

Another video posted by an unofficial account named 'ISRAEL MOSSAD' shared a clip from Arma 3 showing explosions in the air claiming that it showed the Iron Beam in action. 

Old visuals shared as recent

Perhaps the most common and recurrent narrative that emerges as events unfold during a major geopolitical conflict is the surge of old and unrelated visuals. In situations where information is scant and confirmation is difficult, such visuals are often reshared as recent. Logically Facts has found that over the past two weeks, misleading visuals from previous conflicts between Gaza and Israel, bombings and attacks in Syria, macabre videos of ISIS killings and unrelated videos from Turkey have been shared online. 

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before