Footage of Gaza City airstrike misattributed to Rafah reaches millions on X, pushed by verified users

by Admin
Footage of Gaza City airstrike misattributed to Rafah reaches millions on X, pushed by verified users

With the Israel-Hamas war approaching its seventh-month mark, X, a social media network with over half a billion active users worldwide, remains a major platform for disinformation and misinformation.

On April 21, X users positioning themselves as news outlets or open-source intelligence experts posted a video of a large airstrike in the Gaza Strip, identifying it as being filmed in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

Citizen Free Press, a U.S.-based right-wing news aggregator website with nearly 400k followers on X, posted the footage with the following comment:

“MASSIVE Israeli airstrike in Rafah, earlier today.”

That is false.

The video shows an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, not Rafah.

While Rafah was bombed on April 21 by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Al Jazeera, Anadolu Agency, İhlas News Agency and the Middle East Observer have all identified the footage as depicting an airstrike in the al Tuffah District of Gaza City, located in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Yet posts misidentifying that footage or insinuating the video came from Rafah have received millions of views — vastly more than those identifying the correct location.

Lebanese state official joined in amplifying the misattribution of the video to Rafah, drumming up fears of an expanded Israeli military operation in the city, where an estimated 1.5 million displaced civilians have taken refuge, largely in makeshift encampments.

On April 22, Lebanese diplomat Mohamad Safa, who has over 455k followers on X, reposted a screenshot taken from the video, showing the fireball during the split second when it is largest to maximize its visual impact.

Safa commented:

“Israel is intensely bombing 1.5 million Palestinians in Rafah. They are now being bombed with nowhere else to go. This is not war, this is genocide.”

Screenshot from X, showing an Israeli airstrike in the al Tuffah District of Gaza City on April 21, 2024. A number of X users incorrectly identified the strike as occurring in Rafah.

He reposted the same image on April 23 with this comment:

“Rafah is being decimated, there is nowhere else left to go. Israel is now bombing more than 1.7 million civilians trapped in Rafah, Gaza’s last place of refuge. A massacre is happening in Rafah right now and the world is silent.”

The IDF began its siege of Gaza City in November 2023.

International aid organizations fear a looming ground invasion of Rafah could create a humanitarian catastrophe, with Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning Israel ground operations there would create a “bloodbath.”

The United States opposes a major military operation in Rafah, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s is threatening. In March, President Joe Biden warned an invasion of Rafah would worsen the humanitarian crisis.

Israel carried out airstrikes in Rafah over the past weekend.

Agence France-Presse, citing the Palestinian National Authority’s Wafa news agency, reported that airstrikes on April 20 hit two family homes in Rafa, killing 10 residents.

On April 22, The Associated Press reported that overnight airstrikes had killed 22 people in Rafah, including 18 children.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, whose fighters killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, including American citizens, in Israel last October, sparking the ongoing war.

The United States redesignated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization after the October attack. Hamas released some 100 hostages in November but refuses to free the rest, whose fate and well-being remain unknown to their families.

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