1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Fact check: Fake image of al-Shifa Hospital director

July 5, 2024

The director of al-Shifa Hospital, Mohammed Abu Selmia, was recently released from an Israeli prison. One particular image of him is making waves on social media- But analysis reveals AI created the image.

An image marked as fake and AI-generated of Mohammed Abu Selmia with outstretched arms standing in front of al-Shifa Hospital
Is this a real picture of Mohammed Abu Selmia, director of Gaza's al-Shifa hospital?Image: Source: Instagram/ in.visualart

On Monday, Israel released several Palestinian detainees, including Mohammed Abu Selmia, a prominent pediatrician and the director of al-Shifa Hospital in the beleaguered Gaza Strip. Abu Selmia had been detained in late 2023 while traveling with a UN convoy carrying wounded civilians away from the besieged hospital compound. Israeli officials alleged that the hospital was being used as a command center by Hamas, a militant, Islamist, Palestinian group designated as a terrorist organization by Germany, Israel, the US and others.

The release of Abu Selmia sparked mixed reactions in  Israel and the Palestinian territories. Some Israeli officials, such as the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, criticized the decision and called it "security negligence."

In contrast, Palestinians and Palestinian supporters online celebrated Abu Selmia's return to Gaza. There, he is mostly viewed as a hero who was unjustly arrested. 

Claim: An image widely circulating on social media purportedly shows Abu Selmia standing in front of al-Shifa Hospital after his release.

The picture has been shared by a number of accounts, each using it to support a different narrative, either criticizing the doctor's release, or lauding the notion that he had returned straight to work. The image has spread across various platforms, including X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and Instagram. Examples include this post on X in Arabic with 55,000 views and this post on X in English that had been viewed 254,000 times when this article was published.

DW fact check: Fake.

The image bears a watermark, In.visualart, which is associated with the Instagram account of visual designer Islam Nour. In the caption of the published image, the artist included the terms "Ps+AI," indicating that he had used the image editing software Photoshop, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) to create the image.

Nour's page features many other AI-generated visuals that look stunningly photorealistic, but are artistic interpretations of the events surrounding Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza.  

The image in question of Mohammed Abu Selmia raising his arms in front of al-Shifa hospital, but in black and white and with inversed colors
The forensic image analysis shows conspicuously thin lines in the body contours, which usually indicate an image has been manipulatedImage: Forensically

A closer inspection of the image itself gives further clues that it was created with the help of editing software. For example, a forensic analysis indicates that a picture of Abu Selmia was digitally superimposed onto a separate image of al-Shifa Hospital.

Additionaly, the image shows several flaws that are typical for AI-generated content. For instance, the keffiyeh patterns on Abu Selmia's sleeves appear unnaturally flat and lack realistic texture. His white medical coat has buttons on both sides but no buttonholes, and the buttons do not appear to be uniformly spaced. His thumbs look disproportionately large and somewhat awkwardly aligned.

The image in question of Mohammed Abu Salmiya with outstretched arms, with circles drawing attention to clues in the image and a stamp marking the image as fake and AI-generated
There are several flaws in this image of al-Shifa Hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia, indicating the image was created with the help of artificial intelligenceImage: Source: Instagram/in.visualart.

What's more, Abu Selmia's skin appears without wrinkles or signs of exhaustion, contrasting sharply with photos of him taken shortly after his release.

The blue uniform seen in the image is also inconsistent with other photos of Abu Selmia and al-Shifa staff: They are typically seen in buttonless, V-neck uniforms while the uniform in the AI-generated image appears to be a hidden-button shirt.

AI-generated images often contain such slight mistakes because the technology has not yet perfected replicating the intricacies of real-world objects and human anatomy. These errors can help experts and informed viewers identify manipulated images.

This isn't the first instance of AI-generated imagery from this artist's account causing a stir. Recently, Nour released another AI-generated image showing what appeared to be an attack dog lunging at an elderly woman during what seemed to be a military operation. The image reached millions of users, with one tweet alone receiving 2 million views. It, too, was later confirmed to be artificially created.

Edited by: Ines Eisele