Gaza has said that 2,329 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing war with Israel making it the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for Palestinians. The current war erupted on October 7 when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack. According to reports, more than 1,300 Israelis have been killed so far, an overwhelming majority of which are civilians.
Against this backdrop, Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber recently shared a post as his Instagram story featuring an image of a demolished building with the message ‘Praying for Israel’. The graphic implied that this picture showed the devastation in Israel. However, Bieber later deleted the post.
In fact, this picture was originally posted by a handle named ‘Churchome’ and re-posted by the singer on his story. Churchome is an app which providing features related to Christian religious practices. The app was promoted by Justin Bieber, and its Instagram account claimed that the scene depicted in the image was from Israel. Later, this account, too, deleted the post.
Alt News performed a reverse image search of the image in question, and found it in an article published on the India Today website on May 23, 2021. This article was published from the feed of international news agency Associated Press (AP). In this, along with the picture posted by Justin Bieber in his Instagram story, it is written that this is a picture of a destroyed building in Palestine’s Gaza city, taken a week after the Israeli air strike, i.e. on May 22, 2021. It is worth noting known that on May 15 of that year, Israel launched attacks on a number of buildings in Gaza. This building also included Gaza Tower, which housed the offices of news agencies like the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
We also found the image on the website of TV channel ABC 33/40 which mentioned that this was a picture of Gaza.
We performed another search on YouTube, which led us to a video report by The Telegraph. This report contains a video taken from a drone camera of buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza. A frame from this video exactly matches the photo that Justin Bieber shared in his Instagram story.
Alt News also independently verified the location of this photo. With the help of the 3D buildings layer applied on top of the satellite image of Gaza City on Google Earth Pro, we compared a building seen in the viral image with the map of the city, which we found to be an exact match. This confirms that this picture is from this location.
We have illustrated this through a GIF in which one screenshot shows a building in Gaza City, while the other shows the rubble from that building. Even in the latest map from 2022, when the filter of 3D buildings is applied, the 3D image before 2021 appears since it is not updated so frequently on the map. The geographical coordinates of this location are (31°30’57.5″N 34°26’55.2″E).
On Google Maps, we observed that there was a shopping mall named Capital Mall located across the street from the demolished building. When we searched this mall on YouTube, we found a video uploaded on ILTV Israel News’ YouTube channel dated February 24, 2017 covering the Capital Mall of Gaza. This was the same mall which had a sign that read ‘Capital Enterprise’, a portion of which could also be seen in the picture shared by Justin Bieber.
The demolished building was located in front of Capital Mall. We noticed a user posted a picture of the building demolished in May 2023 in their Google review of Capital Mall. However, this picture is at least 12-year old. This photo was also carried in a 2011 article on The Electronic Intifada, a website that monitors the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Alt News found a video recorded by a drone of Gaza City in 2014 on Al Jazeera’s YouTube channel. The location of the viral image can be verified using this footage as well. Here, the tallest building visible at the 1:31 mark is the same one which was demolished by Israel in 2021.
While gathering more information, we also found a video of the demolition of this building which was uploaded on the YouTube channel of ‘Daily Mail’ on May 13, 2021. The name of this building was the Al Sharouk tower, which also housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel. It was demolished in an Israeli air strike in May 2021. The structures of the houses behind the demolished building can be compared from this video and the viral picture. Al Jazeera also tweeted footage of the demolition of ‘Al Sharouk’ on May 13, 2021.
To sum it up, the image in question does not show Israel, but is of Gaza in Palestine.
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