The month-long war between Israel and Hamas has sparked numerous social media claims that deaths and injuries have been staged. In one example, posts claim the same individual seen in videos with serious injuries in a hospital bed was walking around seemingly unharmed a day later. But the clips show two different people, an injured teen filmed in the West Bank weeks before the latest outbreak of violence, and a 25-year-old Palestinian in Gaza.
"Just yesterday, this guy (Hamas' actor) was filmed in a critical condition at the hospital. Today he uploaded this video. He looks very healthy to me," says the text of an October 26, 2023 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, which is accompanied by a video edited to combine two separate clips.
One of the recordings appears to show a man walking through the rubble in Gaza, speaking of the effects of Israeli bombardments -- which have left thousands injured -- while the other shows a man being comforted as he lies in a hospital bed, attached to machines monitoring his vitals. The two clips are claimed to show the same person and posts say his impossibly fast recovery proves he was faking his injuries and staging content about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
War in the region has been raging following an October 7 attack by Hamas which killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to officials in Israel.
Since the attack, Israel has hammered Gaza with air and artillery strikes and sent in ground forces that have effectively cut the strip in half, with soldiers and tanks tightening the encirclement of Gaza City. More than 10,300 people -- mainly women and children -- have been killed in the Palestinian territory as of November 7, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
The blockade of Gaza has caused a depletion of medical supplies while people have urgently sought help for injuries from airstrikes.
Despite growing calls for a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear there would be no ceasefire until Hamas releases the 240 hostages taken in the attack.
The claim that the video in the hospital was staged by the same man comes amid waves of misinformation about the conflict, including other false posts purporting to show evidence of "crisis actors" or people faking injuries. It garnered attention with posts on Facebook in English and Spanish, and on X, where archives show it was shared before being deleted by the official Israel account.
A Canadian newspaper, the Toronto Sun, ran an article about the acting claims, referencing posts with the video of the young man in the hospital, before updating its article to remove what an editor's note says was "incorrect information" (archived here).
While they may look similar, with a slim build, short dark hair and a beard, the hospitalized patient is not the same person as the man seen walking around Gaza.
Videos show different people
In some of the videos of a young man walking through the rubble in Gaza there is superimposed text with the name Saleh Aljafarawi. Searching the name on Google leads to the Instagram profile of a man who describes himself as a "video creator" and singer, based in Gaza.
Posts on the account where he appears walking the streets of Gaza reciting verses from the Koran or talking about the situation in the Palestinian territory match some of the videos shared with claims about faked scenes.
On his YouTube profile, he writes his name as "Al-Jaafrawi" and introduces himself as a 25-year-old Palestinian resident of Gaza. AFP reached out to him for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.
Searching his accounts on various social media platforms did not reveal any publications showing him injured in a hospital bed.
Injured teen in the West Bank
A reverse-image search using frames from the video showing the hospitalized patient leads to a TikTok account of a user with the handle "@hamodahmdan1," who shared the clip on August 18, 2023 with the hashtag "Nour_Shams_Camp" in Arabic (archived here).
Nur Shams is a refugee camp in the West Bank -- the only other Palestinian territory besides the Gaza Strip. The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967 and its forces regularly carry out incursions into areas that are nominally under Palestinian control.
A keyword search for "Nour Shams camp" and "attack," limited to the date the video was published on TikTok reveals an August 25 article (archived here) by the organization International Solidarity Movement (ISM), with the headline "Palestinian child loses leg after Israeli occupation invades Nur Shams camp."
"Three ISM members met with Mohammed and were able to confirm that he is who he says he is and that he suffered the loss of his leg," ISM told AFP in a November 3 email.
The search also revealed a post by Palestinian journalist Younis Tirawi, who pointed out the confusion between the injured Palestinian and the blogger from Gaza, which included a link to Zendiq's TikTok profile.
The teenager from the West Bank posted videos about his recovery on the platform, with clips of him in a wheelchair in September and in rehabilitation in October. He also reposted fact checks which disproved the theory that he and Al-Jaafrawi were the same person.
Zendiq confirmed the information published by ISM was correct in a direct message on TikTok to AFP on October 31. He insisted that he and Al-Jaafrawi are not the same person.
'Crisis actor' claims
The claim was debunked by AFP's Spanish verification team, Euronews and a journalist from the British Broadcasting Corporation. This is the latest in a series of posts suggesting that "crisis actors" are exaggerating the scope of suffering.
AFP previously debunked a post claiming to show an image of a purportedly moving body bag. AFP showed the photos were of a Thai child in a Halloween costume in 2022 -- rather than someone pretending to be a victim in Gaza.
More of AFP's reporting about misinformation surrounding the Israel-Hamas war can be found here.