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Was Israeli army chief captured, subjected to violence?

Viral video passes off Ukrainian prisoner of war as chief of IDF


Claim: A video shows that the chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Lt-Gen Herzl “Herzi” Halevi, was captured, detained, and subjected to violence repeatedly.

Fact: The video neither shows the Israeli army chief Halevi, nor is it recent. It actually depicts a Ukrainian prisoner of war from February 2023.

On 1 November 2023, Facebook user ‘Safwan Safwan’ posted (archive) a video showing a tattooed person, stripped down to his boxers, being repeatedly slapped by someone in military fatigues.

A picture runs on the side of the frame, depicting the chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Lieutenant-General Herzl “Herzi” Halevi, sitting alongside the country’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, implying that the man who is seen stripped and being beaten is Halevi.

The video is captioned, “دل ٹھنڈا کیجیے ❤️,” which, when translated to English, reads, “Cool your heart down.”

What’s going on in Gaza?

On 7 October 2023, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza — launched (archive) a “surprise attack” on Israel via sea, land, and air. In response, the Israeli government formally declared (archive) war on Hamas on 8 October 2023.

According to a 23 November 2023 update by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed and over 21,500 injured since the 7 October attack. Similarly, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed and upwards of 5,400 injured.

Ever since the 7 October attack, a flood of misleading, old, and out-of-context pictures, videos, and claims have surfaced in the media.

Fact or Fiction?

When Soch Fact Check reverse-searched keyframes from the video in question, the results showed multiple posts from February 2023; these tweets can be found here, here, here, and here.

It also appeared here (archive) on Reddit on 3 February 2023, titled “ua pov: Russian soldiers abusing Ukrainian POW – Unknown location.”

PoW, short for prisoner of war, refers to the Ukrainian soldier in this video who was captured by Russian forces amidst the ongoing war between Kyiv and Moscow that started (archive) on 24 February 2022.

Interestingly, a watermark superimposed on the viral video reads “поздняков”, which apparently refers to Vladislav Pozdnyakov, a fitness coach and founder of the “Russian far-right misogynist hate group” Male State that promotes a “national-patriarchy” ideology.

The image of Halevi displayed in the viral video appears here (archive) on IMAGO, a German photo agency’s website, with the caption:

“October 23, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: Minister of Defense YOAV GALLANT (2nd right) and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. HERZI HALEVI (1st right) conduct a situation assessment at IDF headquarters, the Kirya, in Tel Aviv, 23rd October, 2023. Israel is engaged in a war with Hamas of the Gaza Strip following massive rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, infiltration of gunmen into Israeli territory, massacre of civilian women and children in their homes and hostage taking of civilians and soldiers. 350,000 reservists have been deployed and the Israel Air Force is massively bombing Gaza in preparation for the next stage of warfare. Tel Aviv Israel – ZUMAi99_ 20231023_zip_i99_001 Weniger anzeigen”


Soch Fact Check observed that the video posted by ‘Safwan Safwan’ received over 2.1 million views, 52,000 shares, 19,000 reactions, and 1,900 comments, as of writing time.

We found the video here, here, here, here, and here. It was also shared as a Reel here, here, here, here, and here.

The clip was also uploaded to X, formerly Twitter, here, here, here, here, and here.

Conclusion: The video neither shows the Israeli army chief Halevi, nor is it recent. It actually depicts a Ukrainian prisoner of war from February 2023.

Background image in cover photo: @idfonline

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