Viral video does not show Israeli children held in cages by Hamas
False claim has gained staggeringly high traction on social media platforms
Claim: Hamas is holding Israeli children hostage and has kept them in cages.
Fact: The video predates the recent Hamas attack; therefore, the claim is false. It is not clear if the clip is indeed from the Israel-Palestine conflict or from another region.
“Children have been locked in cells. Hamas militants have published a video that shows them holding Israeli children hostage. Here, we are gathering all the facts: http://ift.tt/LOhibel #Israel #Hamas”
The post is part of a deluge of pictures, videos, and claims that surfaced following Israel’s declaration of war (archive) against Hamas, after the group launched a “surprise attack” (archive), resulting in hundreds of casualties.
Hamas — a Palestinian Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip — used its armed wing, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades in the 7 October 2023 attack, formally named Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. In his response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told (archive) residents of the area to evacuate as his country’s forces would “turn all Hamas hideouts into rubble”.
Fact or Fiction?
Soch Fact Check reverse-searched keyframes from the video but only found links to reposts on different social media platforms.
We were able to trace one link to a now-deleted video from January 2020 titled “Palestinian Children Locked in Cages” and posted by the YouTube channel Palestine News. Its description reads, “Israeli Army Kidnapping Palestinian Children and throwing them in Cages , in Occupied Hebron , VIA B’TSELEM.”
However, the clip is not available anymore and the video-sharing company has “removed [it] for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines”. Unfortunately, archiving websites were also unable to archive it in time.
We went through multiple comments under reposts of the same video on X and found that many users claimed it was a years-old video from Syria; some of these can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Similar comments are also available on two websites here and here.
Others — such as these two accounts — asserted that the children seen in the video are not Israeli but Palestinian. While this is not verifiable either, media outlets have previously reported on human rights groups’ claims that “Israel government ‘tortures’ children by keeping them in cages” and that “Palestinian children [were] abused in Israeli detention”.
Meanwhile, Fake Reporter — an Israeli fact-checking organisation that describes itself as “fighting disinformation, hate speech, and other malicious online activities” — posted a tweet on 8 October stating that the video in question was posted at least four days ago, which means that it surfaced prior to the Hamas attack, which took place on 7 October.
In its Hebrew-language tweet (archive), they wrote, “שימו לב: בשעות אלה מופץ סרטון של ילדים בכלוב ונטען כי מדובר בילדים ישראלים חטופים. מדובר בסרטון ישן שפורסם לפני לפחות ארבעה ימים – כפי שניתן לראות בצילום. לא חסרות זוועות ברשת, והתעללות בילדים בשום מקום זמן אינה מקובלת – אך במקרה הזה מדובר בפייק. אנא הפסיקו לשתף את הסרטון.”
In its English one (archive), they wrote, “ATTENTION: The video which claims to show the abducted Israeli kids in cages in Gaza is FALSE. These are NOT Israeli children, and the video was posted more than four days ago – before the current war. Please do not spread this false and harmful video.”
Soch Fact Check reached out to Fake Reporter via X direct messages and they referred us to their latest tweet, which said, “We DON’T know where it came from. The only thing we know about the video is its time stamp: it was published at least five days ago. We DON’T know where it was filmed and when.”
Children in cages video:
We keep being asked for the original video. The Tiktok video we saw has been erased, and the link is broken. here it is: https://t.co/NfeACQngPB
We DON'T know where it came from. The only thing we know about the video is its time stamp: it was published… pic.twitter.com/1e5iO9lsiI
— פייק ריפורטר | FakeReporter (@FakeReporter) October 9, 2023
Looking at the screenshot, we searched the text available in the bottom-left corner, stating, “مظلوم فبلادي الشعب_الصيني_ماله_حل#”. This led us to a TikTok video by @user6903068251281 but neither the clip nor any archived versions are available anymore.
Fact-checking outlets accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) — of which Soch Fact Check is also a signatory — as well as others that are not, including Chequeado, Les Observateurs, Snopes, EFE Verifica, Facta, Maldita, Check Your Fact, TjekDet, FactCheck Georgia, Factchequeado, Lupa, Faktisk, Lead Stories, Tech ARP, WUSA9, and El Heraldo, have published their own investigative pieces about the viral claim as well.
Clarification from TikToker
In addition, Kashif — an independent Palestinian platform that fights misleading information also known as the Palestinian Observatory for Fact-checking and Media Literacy — has also investigated and debunked the claim.
Some of the aforementioned fact-checks provide further insight into the viral video, strengthening the argument against it that it is misleading.
According to Kashif, the TikTok user @user6903068251281 — a young man from the Gaza Strip — has apparently reactivated their account and posted a video clarifying that it is unrelated to the 2023 escalation between Israel and Palestine.
“The man confirmed that the children who appeared in the circulating video clip were his relatives and not Israeli children and that he published the video three days prior to the operation,” the fact-checking outlet wrote.
Kashif also shared an interesting fact that the audio in the viral video is a “non-original synthesised sound of a man’s laughter provided by the audio-on-video synthesis feature” on TikTok. Their team “investigated the origin of the sound and found that it is a trend in Palestine called ‘Be Careful of the Olive Tree’.”
Lead Stories notes, “The hashtag included on the original posting of this video in Arabic “الشعب الصيني_ماله_حل#” translates literally to “The Chinese people have no solution.” To Arabic speakers the satirical phrase means, “You can’t fix them.” The hashtag is not derogatory, but shows admiration of the resourcefulness of Chinese people. It is used by Arabic speakers when sharing content that is funny or silly on TikTok.”
This is corroborated by the fact that the video in question has laughing emojis superimposed on it.
Interestingly, Maldita was able to find the link to a second TikTok video by the same user and accessed its cache stored by Google; this clip shows “some of the children from the cage video [who] appear sitting on a curb” in response to a comment on the now-deleted first video stating, “Release them before they turn white😁😅😅.”
Soch Fact Check found that the claim was perpetuated by multiple accounts with a large number of followers.
These include the Malaysian “far-right commentator” Ian Miles Cheong, the co-host of a podcast called World War Now, Orthodox Canonist, a host of far-right conspiracy TV channel Real America’s Voice, Grant Stinchfield, political scientist and columnist Manolis Giannarakis, human rights activist and founder of Iran’s Fadaeyan Movement, Saied Shemirani, citizen journalism blog documenting Mexican drug war, Blog del Narco, Norway-based Portuguese-language “independent media” outlet, Duna Press Jornal, Pakistani dissidents Faraz Pervaiz and Fazila Baloch, and the “ultranationalist, neo-fascist hate group” Britain First’s leader Paul Golding and the group’s chair, Ashlea Simon.
Only @OCanonist posted a “correction” to their first tweet carrying the false information; however, they did not delete the original claim.
The YouTube channel Blurred Culture also shared the video with the following text superimposed on it:
“Palestinian terrorists are holding Israeli babies hostage in cages; The devil does exist.”
It has gained more than 3,600 views as of writing time.
Conclusion: The video predates the Hamas attack and is, therefore, false. It is not clear if the clip is indeed from the Israel-Palestine conflict or some other region.
(Update on 20 October 2023: The headline of this article has been revised from “Video allegedly showing Israeli children in cages predates Hamas attack” to “Viral video does not show Israeli children held in cages by Hamas”. We have also updated the TikTok video link in the 15th paragraph and added a subheading “Clarification from TikToker” after the 16th paragraph.)
Background image in cover photo: Taylor Brandon
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