Disputed visuals show body of a real Palestinian child, not a doll
Claim amplified by the government of Israel
Editor’s note: It is unfortunate that we have to investigate whether a dead body is real or not. In line with ethical reporting and out of respect for the family of the deceased, we have decided not to include raw visuals. All screenshots below are blurred at specific places. One of these visuals shows a comparison of a screenshot from the viral video and the raw image that we received from the original photographer; in that image, we have only identified marks on the child’s face and the rest is blurred.
Claim: The Israeli government claims that a Palestinian child’s dead body, depicted in a widely-circulated video and an image, is actually a doll and not a real human.
Fact: Momen El Halabi, the Gaza-based journalist and photographer who filmed the video, confirmed the boy’s identity as Omar Al-Banna from the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in Gaza. Al-Banna was killed on 12 October 2023 due to a raid by an Israeli aircraft, he said. The individual carrying Al-Banna’s body is a person close to the child’s family. An AFP photographer also documented the scene, which coincides with the influx of dead bodies at the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital’s morgue in the Gaza Strip.
[Content warning: This fact-check contains blurred visuals of dead bodies.]
On 14 October 2023, X (formerly Twitter) user @Ostrov_A posted (archive) a video and an image — the former depicting medics receiving dead bodies and the latter showing a dead child, with their face circled in red — implying that it was not a real dead body but a doll.
@Ostrov_A captioned the tweet as follows:
“#DontLookAway: Video of Hamas using a doll (yes a doll) to suggest it was a part of casualties caused by an IDF attack. Remember this, next time you hear about ‘casualties in Gaza’!”
Fact or Fiction?
Soch Fact Check took keyframes from the video to analyse it. Through a few of those screenshots, we were able to make out a watermark superimposed on the clip stating, “مؤمن الحلبی”.
We were able to find the Instagram account of Momen El Halabi, @momen.h1, a Gaza-based photographer who originally posted the video. When asked about the child in question, he said the boy’s name was Omar Al-Banna and he lived in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood.
He stated the child was “martyred on 12 October 2023 due to a raid by Israeli occupation aircraft on a residential neighbourhood”. When asked about the individual carrying Al-Banna’s body, El Halabi said it was a person close to the family.
Momen El Halabi also shared another picture with us of the dead body, which was taken from a closer angle and provides a clear view of the child’s face. We compared it to keyframes from the video and concluded that it is indeed the same boy.
Separately, Soch Fact Check also looked up pictures by Mohamed Abed, from the same scene on Getty Images, and found at least two photographs. Abed is an award-winning Palestine-based photographer associated with the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The pictures, dated 12 October 2023, available here and here, show the area outside the morgue of the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital — the largest medical facility located in the North Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza Strip, Palestine.
The first picture is captioned, “A Palestinian man holds a child wrapped in a shroud during a funeral for victims killed in a building that was hit by air strikes, as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day in Gaza City on October 12, 2023. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images).”
The second photo is captioned, “People stand by the bodies of victims of Israeli air strikes outside the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on October 12, 2023 as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images).”
The date mentioned in the captions above — 12 October 2023 — also matches reports of the raids carried out by Israel in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood where Al-Banna lived; these articles can be found here, here, and here, as well as on this map.
The man carrying the boy’s body is also seen in a tweet posted by the TIMES OF GAZA — a social media-based organisation dedicated to providing daily updates from Palestinian territories — and here in an image available in The Associated Press (AP) Newsroom.
The accompanying caption states, “People wait by body bags outside the morgue at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on October 12, 2023 as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via AP).”
Lastly, footage captured by the AP shows towards the end of the clip what appears to be one of the entrances to the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The text reads as follows:
“جمعية قيراطان الخيرية
مغسلة الاموات الخیریة
تغسيل وتكفين الموتى مجانا
مجمع الشفاء الطبي
[Qiratan Charity Association
Charitable Ablution [service] of the Dead
Free washing and shrouding the dead
Al-Shifa Medical Complex]”
When we searched for Qiratan Charity Association, we found a Facebook page named ‘متابعة وفيات مدينة خانيونس”قيراطان”’ — or “Follow-up of deaths in the city of Khan Yunis “Qiratan” — that is being regularly updated in light of the escalating situation.
What’s going on in Gaza?
The Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza — launched a “surprise attack” (archive) on Israel on 7 October 2023 via sea, land, and air. In response, the Israeli government formally declared war (archive) war on the group a day later.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by telling (archive) residents of the area to evacuate as his country’s forces would “turn all Hamas hideouts into rubble”. A flood of pictures, videos, and claims have surfaced since.
Over 2,300 Palestinians have been killed and close to 10,000 have been wounded by the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, according to media outlets. Furthermore, The Guardian reported (archive) that “at least 53 people have been reported killed in the West Bank, with more than 1,100 wounded”.
The publication added that according to the Israeli army, “at least 279 of its soldiers had been killed” since Hamas’ attack on 7 October while 1,300 Israeli civilians were also killed and at least 3,400 wounded in total.
Soch Fact Check found that social media accounts associated with the Government of Israel, including the country’s embassies, have also posted the same claim on their social media (archive); their Instagram post received close to 53,000 likes and their Facebook Reel was viewed nearly 30,000 times.
Israel’s embassies in France and Austria also shared the false claim here (archive) and here (archive), respectively. The caption by the latter included the phrase, “Hamas’ #Pallywood fake news factory.”
Pallywood — a combination of the words “Palestinian” and “Hollywood” — denotes “supposed media manipulation, distortion or fraud by some Palestinians putatively designed to win the public relations war with Israel”, according to DBpedia, which describes itself as a crowdsourced community effort to extract structured content.” from the information created in various Wikimedia projects”.
Similarly, two X posts by @YosephHaddad and @alkhames have garnered views in millions; the former was viewed over 3.7 million times and the latter upwards of two million times. Some posts with views between 100,000 and one million can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
It can also be seen on Reddit here.
Conclusion: Momen El Halabi, the Gaza-based journalist and photographer who filmed the video, confirmed the boy’s identity as Omar Al-Banna from the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in Gaza. Al-Banna was killed on 12 October 2023 due to a raid by an Israeli aircraft, he said. The individual carrying Al-Banna’s body is a person close to the child’s family. An AFP photographer also documented the scene, which coincides with the influx of dead bodies at the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital’s morgue in the Gaza Strip.
Background image in cover photo: Ömer Yıldız
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