Claim: A photo on social media shows a drone strike on an Israeli businessman’s cargo ship in the Indian Ocean.

Fact: The claim is false because the images are from 2019, when oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were reportedly attacked by Iran.

On 26 November 2023, a Facebook user posted an image  (archive) with the caption, “An Israeli Billioniare’s cargo ship was just hit by a drone in the Indian Ocean.” 

The caption is accompanied by an image of a huge ship on fire.

The image was shared after a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack in the Indian Ocean on 25 November 2023. According to AP News,  an anonymous US defence official said that the “Malta-flagged vessel was suspected to have been targeted by a triangle-shaped, bomb-carrying Shahed-136 drone while in international waters. The drone exploded, causing damage to the ship but not injuring any of its crew.”  The same official expressed concerns that Iran could be responsible for the attack.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check conducted a Tin Eye reverse image search, which led to an article by Daily Mail UK published on 17 June 2019, carrying the viral image. According to the story  “A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman.” Britain concluded that Iran was responsible for the attack, the report added.

The image of the ship from the Facebook post under question was featured in the Daily Mail article with the caption, “The attack on the tanker left it ablaze and adrift while sailors were quickly evacuated.”

Screenshot of the image published by Daily Mail in 2019

NBC News also published the same image on 13 June 2019 reporting an increase in the prices of oil after the attack on the tankers in the Arabian Gulf.

The same image was also featured on the stock image website, Alamy, with the caption, “An oil tanker is on fire in the sea of Oman, Thursday, June 13, 2019. Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA)” 


The image was falsely linked to the attack on Israeli cargo here, here, here and here on Facebook.

On X (formerly Twitter), it was posted by Jackson Hinkle where it received 2.8 million views, 46k likes and 8.7k reposts. The archived versions of the claim can be seen here, here and here.

Conclusion: The image of a ship with a container on fire is not from the recent attack on Israeli cargo. In fact, the image shows an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which took place in 2019.


Background image in cover photo: Jeremy Ducray


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