Fake news related to the Israel-Hamas war—our report
Following the Hamas attack on Israel, social media has been flooded with fake news relating to the fighting between the parties and its initial aftermath. FakeHunter is verifying every suspicious information, as it did with disinformation operations concerning the war in Ukraine. Below are some examples showing the multi-faceted nature of the disinformation operation around war between Israel and Hamas.
On 7 October 2023, during a Jewish sabbath day and a day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched ‘Operation al-Aqsa Flood’, which was a coordinated assault on Israel. In retaliation, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced ‘Operation Iron Swords’ to retake the Gaza Strip. Hamas is a Sunni Islamist political and military organization governing the Gaza Strip, one of the Palestinian territories. As a result of Hamas attack at least 1.400 Israelis were killed. IDF, as of 22 October, killed over 4 thousand Palestinians.
The war in Israel immediately became the subject of disinformation and fake news. One of the biggest disinformation spread by the Kremlin, was the claim that Poland would take part in this war.
On 10 October, the X (formerly Twitter) account of Balli Marzec published the following entry https://twitter.com/BalliMarzec/status/1711717930595983380: "President Andrzej Duda has ordered the creation of a Polish Military contingent in #Israel of 200 soldiers. He is sending Polish soldiers to Israel where the war against #Palestine is ongoing Does #PiS want to drag Poland into the war in Israel?". This is fake news published on an account that regularly writes posts inspired by Russian propaganda.
Polish soldiers were not sent to Israel to support the country in its military operations against Hamas. They had a specific mission of a peacekeeping nature, which they carried out for eight days. Its purpose was to evacuate Poles back to their country, as decided by President Andrzej Duda and announced by the National Security Office on 9 October on X. "A contingent of up to 200 soldiers, along with B-737, C-130 and C-295 aircraft, will be deployed between 8-15 October," the post read.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was evacuating Poles residing in Israel on a short-term or permanent basis, as well as citizens of other countries that asked Poland for help (including Lithuania). In three days, 800 people were brought back.
In turn, Israeli reservists and Israelis who expressed a desire to return to their country flew to Tel Aviv aboard Polish aircraft.
Poland has no intention of sending its troops to the Middle East. As a member of NATO, the country is obliged to provide assistance to allies, but Israel is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Although it is an external partner of NATO, the Alliance's security guarantees do not apply to Israel. In the past, Israel had conducted military exercises jointly with some NATO countries, e.g. the USA and Greece, but has never undertaken such military cooperation with Poland. Sending Polish troops to participate in a war in the Middle East is therefore a completely unrealistic scenario.
Even the United States, a close ally of Israel, although it has been supplying arms for several days (including ammunition and interceptor fighters to supplement Israel's air defence system), currently has no plans to deploy its troops in the country. The Pentagon has only reinforced its military forces in the region to increase deterrence. The US has deployed a strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea near Israel.
Tel Aviv did not request such assistance from the US or any other country in the world, as it has sufficient human resources of its own. The state impressively managed to call up some 300,000-armed reservists within 48 hours.
The most commonly used fake news are photos and videos that, according to people posting them on social media, depict atrocities by Israeli troops.
We have recently fact-checked a post https://twitter.com/truck2047/status/1712824886752899239 from the X portal which read: "The Times shows Palestinian children emotionally attacking Western public opinion under the headline 'Israel shows mutilated children'. A note under the photo says they are Palestinian. A simple psychological trick.” The author also attached a photo purportedly showing the front page of the British daily with a story on Israel's decision to publish drastic photos of little Israelis, victims of the Hamas massacre. It was a manipulation.
The author of the post suggested that ‘The Times’ used a psychological trick and showed mutilated Palestinian children in such a way that the reader seeing the striking headline thinks they are little Israelis. But it was the author of the post who manipulated the context of the aforementioned publication.
In fact, in the original story of ‘The Times’ there was a completely different picture. The newspaper illustrated its story entitled "Israel releases pictures of mutilated babies" about the publication of drastic pictures of mutilated babies, by publishing a photograph of Israeli adults crying and hugging each other.
The caption to the photo read that it is a family mourning a 23-year-old soldier killed in a shootout with Hamas at a kibbutz near the Gaza border. ‘The Times’ editors stressed that the newspaper deliberately decided not to publish the horrific photos of the children's mutilated bodies because, in their view, they were “too graphic”.
On 12 October, the Israeli government published such photos on its social media accounts. "This is the most difficult image we have ever published, but we want each of you to know about it. This is what happened," the Israeli government wrote on its official account on X.
One photo showed the corpse of an infant lying on a bloody, white body bag which was too big for him. Two other photographs showed the blackened and charred bodies of young Israelis murdered by Hamas militias during an assault in the south of the country. The photographs were taken by the Israeli armed forces at Kfar Aza kibbutz, which was one of the first Israeli settlements attacked by Palestinian Hamas on 7 October. The terrorists, armed with assault rifles and grenades, mercilessly executed entire Israeli families there.
The photograph used by the author of the fake news depicted Palestinian children wounded during the shelling of Gaza by Israel in retaliation and also was published by ‘The Times’ as part of the story but not on the front page.
Another example of fake news was a photo https://twitter.com/euchenna607/status/1713144343576388059 published on the X portal on 14 October, showing the corpses of children lined up and wrapped in white sheets. According to the author of the post, it was evidence of genocide perpetrated by Israel. But the photo is over ten years old and shows Syrian victims.
On 21 August 2013, during Syria's civil war, a chemical weapons rocket attack took place on the Sunni-populated village of Gutha, near Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad's troops used rockets with warheads containing the poisonous gas sarin against the rebels. Within an hour, it caused hundreds of casualties. After the attack, numerous amateur videos from field hospitals were published on the internet, showing dozens of bodies of suffocating people, many of them children. Sarin causes flaccid and respiratory paralysis which cause the victims to suffocate.
One series of photographs documenting that crime was a shocking image that showed the corpses of Syrian children who were poisoned with the sarin gas. The fact-checked photo appeared in a number of publications in connection with the use of sarin in Syria, as well as in a video published on Youtube documenting the crimes committed against civilians in the country. Over time, it has become one of the major photos that illustrate the civil war in Syria and the threats of chemical weapons use.
In 2019, for example, the same photo was used in a report by ‘Action League for Palestinians of Syria,’ an organization that monitors human rights.
There is no doubt that the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been catastrophic for children. Within just a week, more than 600 young Palestinians have been killed by Israeli shelling. Children make up half the population of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, as a result of the shelling, there is a shortage of food, water, electricity, medicine and safe access to hospitals.
Also, a video published https://twitter.com/ShaykhSulaiman/status/1713502477088440586 on 15 October on the X portal was fake news. The post read: “Zionist Israeli police raiding a synagogue to arrest Jewish youth who support Palestinian rights” and was accompanied by a video showing Israeli police officers roughing up and forcibly escorting a group of Orthodox Jews out of a building.
The post was fake news because the footage was recorded more than two years ago. It showed a riot that took place in Israel during the COVID-19 lockdown. On 19 January 2021, the video was published by the Israeli newspaper ‘The Times of Israel’. The story showed the police intervening after dozens of Orthodox young Jews barricaded themselves in a yeshiva (religious school for men) in Jerusalem.
By staying in such a large group, the Israelis violated lockdown restrictions, such as the prohibition of gatherings of more than five people indoors and the order to wear a mask. The yeshiva students refused to leave the building voluntarily. A scuffle ensued, resulting in 20 people being detained for disrupting public order, refusing to identify themselves to officers and throwing stones at them.
The Kremlin's propaganda quickly launched disinformation activities in relation to the situation in Israel. It also aims to undermine Europe's energy security. The situation around the Gaza Strip is not without its impact on the oil and gas market. According to Bloomberg, it will result in continued high prices and inflation. The escalation of the war has also reduced the supply of gas from Israeli fields to Egypt, which is also disrupting supplies to Europe.
There were several publications on social networks that Qatar issued threats that it will stop gas exports to Western countries. An alleged Qatari ultimatum to withhold gas supplies to Western countries if Israel's attack on Gaza is not stopped was reported in a post https://twitter.com/KrystianJachacy/status/1712208287788093489 on the X portal.
The wave of publications on this subject on social networks were verified and denied by the dohanews.co. First and foremost, this concerns a profile ‘Qattar_Affairs’ on X, which is currently suspended. The expert quoted by dohanews.co recalled that an account with a similar name ‘Qatar_Affairs’ had already been suspended “after the 2017 blockade on Qatar”.
The dohanews.co story provides a broader, including historical background to the disinformation war against Qatar. It also included quotes of Qatari politicians expressing their readiness to mediate in a new iteration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was no mention of any threats or any form of gas ultimatum.
It is also worth adding that Qatar has recently been working hard to increase its production and export of gas to Western countries, rather than the other way around.
On 2 October 2023, the website arabnews.com reported on the groundbreaking ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the expansion of Ras Laffan, QatarEnergy’s onshore gas processing base 80 km north of Doha. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani wrote on X that the project “falls within our strategy toward strengthening Qatar’s position as a global producer of liquefied natural gas.” By increasing production at the field, which extends under the Gulf into Iranian territory, Qatar is set to raise its output of LNG by 60 percent or more to 126 million tons a year by 2027.
On 11 October 2023, Bloomberg reported that Qatar was signing long-term LNG supply agreements with France, with a scope extending beyond 2050.
Poland’s Deputy Minister for the Coordination of Special Services, Stanisław Żaryn emphasised in his post on the X portal that Russia is using the Hamas attack on Israel for its own purposes, also to divert attention from Ukraine and to scare Western societies with the threat of war.
According to Elizabeth Wahl, an American journalist focusing on disinformation, Vladimir Putin (Russia’s president) is helping Hamas spread anti-Israel propaganda. In an article published on the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) she wrote “Russian mouthpieces have openly stated that the Middle East conflict helps the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine by distracting the West and possibly lessening arms supplies.”
She also added that the situation in Israel allows Russia “to show itself as a sympathetic friend of the developing world where support for Ukraine’s struggle has been patchy. It is helping the Hamas propaganda effort, echoed by a small army of social media extremists hungry to spread any disinformation that harms the legitimacy of democratic states.”
- 1 https://twitter.com/BBN_PL/status/1711141639287160856?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1711141639287160856%7Ctwgr%5E59389edc45e9bb4941eb9a1b1a3fe0e35e077292%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolskieradio24.pl%2F5%2F1222%2Fartykul%2F3
- 2 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/oct/09/rishi-sunak-uk-poised-israel-military-help
- 3 https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3553040/us-flowing-military-supplies-to-israel-as-country-battles-hamas-terrorists/
- 4 https://www.military.com/daily-news/2023/10/10/israel-conflict-us-military-warns-others-stay-out-no-boots-ground-now.html
- 5 https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-not-planning-put-military-ground-following-attack-israel-2023-10-09/
- 6 https://www.pap.pl/aktualnosci/ambasador-izraela-w-polsce-izraelscy-obywatele-powrocili-do-ojczyzny-na-pokladzie
- 7 https://www.polsatnews.pl/wiadomosc/2023-10-11/wojna-w-izraelu-polska-pomogla-w-transporcie-izraelskich-rezerwistow/?ref=aside_najnowsze
- 8 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/israel-releases-pictures-of-mutilated-baby-920tmqflk
- 9 https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-the-papers-67096754
- 10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdiZqCt5ujc
- 11 https://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/95124
- 12 https://hr.sott.net/article/4865-Turska-Zastupnici-Republikanske-narodne-stranke-kazu-da-su-svoje-dokaze-da-Islamska-drzava-dobija-materijal-za-sarin-iz-Turske-predali-turskom-parlamentu
- 13 https://actionpal.org.uk/en/post/8976/news-and-reports/agps-250-palestinian-children-killed-in-war-torn-syria
- 14 https://www.unic.un.org.pl/sg---inne-wypowiedzi/raport-misji-onz-badajacej-zarzuty-uzycia-broni-chemicznej-w-syrii/2482
- 15 https://businessinsider.com.pl/wiadomosci/dzieci-gina-w-strefie-gazy-unicef-wzywa-do-zawieszenia-broni/7rljww0
- 16 https://www.timesofisrael.com/20-detained-as-ultra-orthodox-clash-with-cops-enforcing-lockdown/
- 17 https://dohanews.co/gaza-experts-debunk-fake-news-on-qatar-gas-supply-threats/
- 18 https://www.arabnews.com/node/2384911/middle-east
- 19 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-10-11/qatar-signs-27-year-lng-supply-deals-with-france#xj4y7vzkg
- 20 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2023-10-11/israel-hamas-war-threatens-energy-prices-adding-to-inflation-risks
- 21 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-10-10/egypt-weighing-impact-of-israel-gas-field-halt-on-its-exports
- 22 https://cepa.org/article/russia-joins-the-anti-israel-fray/