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Fact check: Misinformation on Rafah offensive

May 31, 2024

Since the start of Israel's Rafah offensive, numerous videos and photos have been spreading online, but some make false claims about civilian suffering. DW investigates some of the viral ones.

DW Fact checking False Palestinian TV show 'Nazeef al Torab (Bleeding Dirt)
Image: https://x.com/Osint613

Since May 6, the Israeli army has been advancing into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, engaging in bombardments and exchanges of fire with the Islamist militant group Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by Germany, Israel, and other countries. Dozens of civilians have been killed during Israel’s offensive, according to witnesses,emergency workers, and hospital officials. Simultaneously, fake news and misleading visuals have flooded the internet. Here are a few examples.

Do Palestinian crisis actors stage scenes of death and injury?

DW Fact checking False Gazan rises
Image: x.com/redbrasco

Claim: A post on X, formerly Twitter, features a picture of a person draped in a white shroud holding a smartphone. The caption claims that this image is a proof of "Palestinians media manipulation", where actors stage scenes of death and injury to exaggerate civilian casualties relating to Israel's military operation in Gaza. Since it was posted on May 26 and the time of this article's publication, the tweet had garnered over 100,000 views and been shared by about 3,000 accounts.

DW fact check: False.

The picture has nothing to do with Rafah or Gaza. A Google image search shows it actually comes from a Halloween party in Thailand that took place in October 2022, according to Thai websites. The same picture has circulated on multiple social media platforms in recent months, often attached to posts with similar claims.

Dubious visuals accuse Palestinians of exaggerating war casualties

Claim: Another video shared on Xand viewed about 190,000 times, purports to show "crisis actors" in Rafah being prepped for a propaganda shoot. The caption reads: "Rafah actors are preparing, and we may soon witness disturbing footage from Rafah." In the footage, two men are seen in a graveyard — one on a stretcher having makeup applied to his neck, and another sitting in a body bag, smoking a cigarette. The video's caption reads "Make-up Gaza Style."

DW Fact checking False Palestinian TV show 'Nazeef al Torab (Bleeding Dirt)
Image: x.com/GAZAWOOD1

DW fact check: False. This allegation has been refuted by various media outlets, including Palestinian fact-checking network Kashif. The video is actually a behind-the-scenes look at a Palestinian TV drama series titled "Bleeding Dirt," which was broadcast months before the Rafah offensive. The series is available on YouTube and the graveyard scenefeatures in the second episode.

Claims that Palestinian crisis actors fake injuries have been circulating for months on social media. Such accusations often use derogatory terms like "Gazawood" or "Pallywood," combining "Palestine" and "Hollywood" to imply that Palestinians are orchestrating a large-scale misinformation campaign. Unverified videos supporting these claims have even been shared by prominent Israeli influencers, such as Hananya Naftali, who has about half a million followers on X.

DW Fact Check investigated several of these videos posted by an account known for spreading these accusations, but it could not verify whether they were filmed in Gaza.  More proof is needed to substantiate these claims; for example, images and footage showing the same individuals acting as real victims.

Does this image show the aftermath of the Rafah offensive?

Claim: While some visuals allegedly showing Palestinians faking death and injury have been debunked, many instances of photos and images falsely claim to depict the aftermath and victims of the Rafah offensive. For example, one widely circulated photo purports to show the shrouded corpses of victims following an Israeli bombardment of Rafah on May 26. This aerial view of a mass funeral has been posted by several accounts, with one postreceiving over 12,500 views and being shared more than 700 times at time of publication.

DW Fact checking False Burnt alive
Image: x.com/swilkinsonbc

DW fact check: False. The photo indeed shows a funeral in Gaza, but the victims were not killed during Israel’s recent strikes on Rafah. Instead, they were killed during another outbreak of the conflict in 2023. The photo, taken by Gazan journalist Mahmud Hams, can be seen in a news article published by France 24 News Agency in December 2023.

Video showing Gazan child killed by the Israeli army?

Claim: Some photos and videos allegedly show injured civilians in hospitals, but are often taken out of context, depicting different incidents with emotional captions. A post on X, garnering about 15,100 views, features a cat "saying goodbye to a Palestinian child killed by Israeli occupation."

DW fact check: False. The video predates the conflict in Gaza.  A reverse image search of a snapshot of the video shows it was posted on Russian social media VK in May 2021. This video is one of many instances of visuals falsely attributed to the ongoing Gaza conflict debunked by DW fact check and other media.

DW Fact checking False Palestinian child killed by Israeli occupation
Image: x.com/OnlinePalEng


Seven months of conflict in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of over 36,000 Palestinians, as reported by the Gazan health ministry, which doesn't distinguish between combatants and civilians. The United Nations has endorsed these figures and the issue of civilian suffering in Gaza has drawn attention from aid groups, world leaders, and even Israeli officials.

However, many photos and videos claiming to show instances of this suffering are inaccurate, misleading and false.

How to spot disinformation in the Israel-Hamas war

Edited by: Lucy James