Israel-Palestinian conflict: False and misleading claims fact-checked

By BBC Monitoring
Essential Media Insight

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As the Israel-Palestinian conflict has escalated, posts containing misleading or false claims have been widely shared online in recent days.

We've investigated examples of misinformation from both sides that have provoked intense debate on social media.

Video of rocket fire is from Syria, not Gaza

Image source, YOUTUBE
Image caption,
This footage is actually video of fighting in Syria

A spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared a video on Twitter which he claimed showed Hamas firing rockets at Israel "from populated areas".

"1/3 of these 250+ rockets fell inside the Gaza Strip, killing Palestinians," Ofir Gendelman tweeted.

But the video is old and the footage is from Syria, not Gaza.

It was taken during a Syrian government operation against rebel groups in the city of Deraa in 2018.

Twitter labelled the tweet as "manipulated media", adding links to fact-checks confirming the clip was from the Syrian war.

After criticism, Mr Gendelman deleted the tweet.

Viral tweets by 'Israeli forces' are fake

Some Twitter users spread what they claimed were screenshots of posts from the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) Twitter account saying: "We just love killing" and "Just bombed some kids".

These screenshots are fakes which can be made using freely available online tools.

The IDF did not make these statements on their official Twitter account or anywhere else.

The account from which the fake tweets apparently originated shows strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel leanings and claims to be writing satire.

A video does not show a 'fake funeral' in Gaza

Image source, TWITTER
Image caption,
A viral video reportedly from Jordan is being passed off as a 'fake funeral' in Gaza

Some Israeli social media influencers shared a video claiming it showed Palestinians faking a funeral ceremony for an individual supposedly killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza - in order to attract global sympathy.

In the video, which was also shared by an adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, a group of teenagers carry what looks like a body covered with a shroud on their shoulders.

As soon as they hear the sound of sirens, they leave the body on the ground and run off. Left alone, the supposed body also gets up and runs away.

We found the same video posted in March 2020, with reports at the time suggesting that it showed a group of boys in Jordan trying to avoid strict Covid-19 restrictions by pretending to hold a funeral.

The clip was shared under the hashtag "Palywood" [Palestinian Hollywood] hundreds of times by pro-Israeli users on major social media platforms.

Video does not show al-Aqsa mosque on fire

Image source, TWITTER
Image caption,
Misleading tweets claimed that al-Aqsa mosque was on fire

Some pro-Palestinian users shared a video which they claimed showed al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem on fire, accusing Israel of "letting the al-Aqsa Mosque burn".

The video is real, but additional footage from other angles makes it clear that a tree near to the mosque had caught fire, not the mosque itself.

The mosque complex in Jerusalem's Old City is one of Islam's most revered locations, but its location is also the holiest site in Judaism, known as the Temple Mount.

In the video, a large crowd of young Jewish Israeli men can be heard singing an anti-Palestinian song behind the Western Wall, with flames visible in the distance.

Image caption,
A tree at the mosque was set on fire - some people thought the mosque itself was ablaze

The cause of the blaze is disputed.

Israeli police said in a statement that it was the result of fireworks thrown by Palestinian worshippers. But Palestinians say it was caused by Israeli officers throwing stun grenades.

According to Reuters, the tree was only 10 metres from the mosque. The fire was subsequently put out and the mosque was not damaged by the blaze.

Old footage does not show missiles on a street in Gaza

Image caption,
Footage of these suspected "dummy" missiles is not from Hamas-controlled territory

One widely shared tweet claimed to show footage of Palestinian militant group Hamas moving truck-based missiles down a street in Gaza. A child can also be heard speaking in the video.

The post, from a US-based pro-Israel account, claims: "Once again we see Hamas using civilians as a shield to murder Jews knowing... that Israel will not retaliate due to the risk of hurting innocent people".

However, we found that the video was uploaded to Facebook on 25 November 2018, with a caption saying it was taken in the town of Abu Snan in Galilee, in Israel.

Aric Toler, a researcher for open-source investigation experts Bellingcat, thinks that the footage shows decoy missile models being used for an Israeli military exercise.

The Twitter account posting the video later deleted it, and apologised for their "incorrect data".

With reporting by Alistair Coleman, Shayan Sardarizadeh, Christopher Giles and Nader Ibrahim.