Trigger Warning: Dead Body, Child Death
[Editor’s note: It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in a position where we must fact-check a claim that portrays a deceased child as a doll. This story uses screenshots and not actual tweets. Where it is unavoidable for the purpose of fact-checking, blurred images and videos have been used.]
Against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, the Israeli government on October 14 alleged that Hamas was trying to deceive the public by passing off a doll as a slain Palestinian child. On X (formerly Twitter), the state of Israel’s official handle shared a video and a photo of the said ‘doll’. The video is a compilation of two clips set to background music. The first clip shows a child being rushed to a hospital and the second clip shows what appears to be a lifeless child shrouded in white cloth. In the picture, the face of the child has been circled. The caption reads, “Hamas accidentally posted a video of a doll (yes a doll) suggesting that it was a part of casualties caused by an IDF attack”. (Archive)
The claim that a doll was being portrayed as a slain child quickly gained widespread attention. Other official Israeli social media accounts, such as the Embassy of Israel in France and the Embassy of Israel in Austria, followed suit by referring to the child featured in the viral video as a doll.
Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad was possibly the first one to tweet this claim. The fact that Hamas allegedly tweeted a video of a doll to deceive the public “exposes how hard the lying and slanderous propaganda arm of Hamas and the Palestinians works” claimed Haddad. His tweet garnered 3.7M views and close to 27,000 likes. (Archive)
Journalist Amy Mek tweeted the viral clip with the same claim and labelled it ‘Islamic Propaganda’. (Archive)
The official handle for ‘Uncensored News Network’ Voice of Europe tweeted the viral clip with the same claim. (Archive)
The viral claim was also shared by Israeli journalist Eddie Cohen, journalist Brian Krassenstein and self-proclaimed fact-checking organisation Israel War Room, which sarcastically called the viral video a ‘spectacular blockbuster’ by “Pallywood”.
Indian X users also amplified this claim. Swarajya journalist Swati Goel Sharma, journalist Abhijit Majumder, RSS mouthpiece Organiser Weekly, Right Wing influencer @MrSinha_, verified users- @VarunKrRana and @zahacktanvir were some of them.
Alt News found a picture on Getty Images where one of the men seen in the viral video can be seen holding what seems to be a dead body covered in a white cloth. The image was credited to AFP photojournalist Mohammed Abed. The caption of the image reads, “A Palestinian man holds a child wrapped in a shroud during the funeral, as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day in Gaza City on October 12, 2023…”. Below is a comparison between the Getty Images picture and a screengrab from the viral video.
In another image captured by Abed for Getty Images, the same individual can be seen holding the child at the same location. According to the caption, this photograph portrays a scene where individuals are gathered beside the bodies of victims of Israeli airstrikes outside the morgue of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on October 12, 2023.
We noticed that the viral videos contain an Arabic watermark, which translates to Momen El Halabi.
Momen El Halabi is a Palestinian photographer who has been covering and documenting the Israeli atrocities on Palestinians. We were able to trace the viral video back to his Instagram account, where he had initially shared it.
We reached out to Momen who refuted the viral claim that the photo showed a doll and not an actual child. He told Alt News that the boy seen in the video was 4-year-old Omar Bilal Al-Banna who was killed in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. He also shared several other pictures of Omar with us for further context.
Israeli air raids struck Al Zaytoun in Gaza on October 12. This corroborates the date of Omar’s death, i.e., October 12, (as seen on Getty Images). The place where he was killed, Al Zaytoun, was among the places hit by Israeli air strikes, alongside Al Nafaq, Sabra, and Tal Al Hawa, leaving 51 dead and 281 injured.
— العربية (@AlArabiya) October 11, 2023
We were informed by Momen that the men in the grey t-shirt and red t-shirt seen with Omar’s body were his relatives. “The child’s father was killed by the occupation in previous years”, Momen said. He also sent us the raw, full version of the viral footage of Omar being carried by the relative, sans the background music.
To clarify that the child seen in the pictures Momen sent us is the same child seen in the viral video, we have pointed out the distinct marks on the child’s face, two on his forehead and one on his chin. We have blurred the rest of the child’s face.
Several Reports Place Grey T-Shirt Man on Al-Shifa Hospital Premises
Furthermore, we found a Times of Gaza tweet dated October 12, containing an image of the man in the grey t-shirt (seen with Omar in the photos and videos above) carrying a body wrapped in white cloth.
We could locate the place where the image was clicked. We found an Associated Press video shot in the same place, dated October 8. The video pans out to show the name “Al-Shifa Medical Complex” inscribed on a wall.
This implies that the man was actually at the Al-Shifa hospital, as has been corroborated by the Getty Images caption, and also independently to Alt News by photographer Momen El Halabi, who was at the spot and recorded the viral video.
Others Who Shared the False Claim
Several news media outlets published reports on Hamas’ apparent tactic for “deception”.
Other verified users that amplified this claim include political commentator Steven Crowder, lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, Saudi journalist Abdulaziz Alkhamis, British-Arab journalist Amjad Taha, Israeli author Hen Mazzig and internet personality Loay Alshareef.
To sum up, the claim by the state of Israel’s official X handle and several other users that the dead child shown in the viral videos/images is actually a doll is false.
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