Old images of explosions from different locations passed off as recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria

By: Umme Kulsum
October 30 2023

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Old images of explosions from different locations passed off as recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria

Screenshots of social media posts purporting to show pictures of airstrikes by the U.S. military in eastern Syria (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

One image shows 2018 Houthi arms depot explosion in Yemen, while the other shows an explosion in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in 2018.

Claim ID de5ada84

What's the claim?

On October 27, the United States launched airstrikes on two locations in eastern Syria—which is used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—in retaliation to what the Pentagon described as a barrage of a slew of drone and missile attacks against American bases in the region. These events occurred in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas war, which started on October 7 and has since claimed thousands of lives on both sides. 

Following the U.S. airstrikes, multiple old and unrelated photographs are being circulated on social media, claiming to depict the explosion site. One X (formerly Twitter) post shared two pictures of explosions with the caption, "BREAKING: The US military has carried out MULTIPLE AIRSTRIKES on two locations in eastern Syria." The post (archived here) gathered more than 1.4 million views and more than 6,600 reposts at the time of publishing. Archived versions of similar posts can be viewed here and here.

These images are also viral on Facebook with the same narrative. Archived versions of such posts can be found here, here, and here.

Screenshot of claims made online (Source: X/Facebook/Modified by Logically Facts)

What did we find?

Logically Facts found the images are unrelated to the recent U.S. military strikes in eastern Syria. 

Image 1

A reverse image search led us to the original photograph, which had appeared in a Reuters story about Yemen's civil war published on June 16, 2018. The photo was credited to Reuter's photojournalist Khaled Abdullah. The description under the photo read, "A Houthi arms depot explodes after it was hit by air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah." We were also able to track the original photograph, which was shot on January 31, 2018, on the Reuters Pictures website. This confirms the image is over five years old and shows a Houthi arms depot explosion in Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

Image from Reuters (Source: Reuters Pictures/Screenshot)

Image 2

We also ran a reverse image search on the second image attached to the viral post, which led us to a July 21, 2018, report by The Times of Israel. The report carried the same image as the viral post and was credited to AFP photographer Said Khatib. "Explosions are seen following Israeli strikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 20, 2018," the photo description said.

Taking a clue from this report, we also found the image in AFP's photo gallery. The accompanying caption read, "A picture taken on July 20, 2018, shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting several members of its military wing killed in the latest flare-up in months of tensions."

Image from AFP Photos (Source: AFP/Screenshot)

This confirms that both the viral images are old and unrelated to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the subsequent airstrikes by the United States in Syria.

The verdict

Old images from different events have been falsely shared as images depicting U.S. military airstrikes in eastern Syria.

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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