Misinformation Surrounds Viral Photo of Palestinian Baby in Israel-Hamas Conflict

In the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, a wave of disinformation has inundated viral on social media platforms, contributing to the misinformation landscape surrounding recent events, including the October 7 terror attacks and the IDF’s Gaza siege. The impact of this disinformation was highlighted when verified images of a grieving grandfather holding a deceased Palestinian baby were falsely labeled as “a doll” across various social media posts.

Photojournalist Ali Jadallah, who shared the images on Instagram, expressed frustration at Israeli media claims that the baby was a doll. He emphasized that the child was a human who lost his life due to Israeli airstrikes. Several of Jadallah’s photos, depicting the 5-month-old Palestinian baby named Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, were provided to Getty Images, a globally recognized photo agency serving news outlets.

Dead body of a 5-month-old Palestinian baby

Getty’s caption clarified the situation: “Dead body of a 5-month-old Palestinian baby named Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital by his mother after Israeli airstrikes at the end of the humanitarian pause in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on December 1, 2023.”

Reuters also distributed the images, contributing to their global dissemination. The misinformation took a troubling turn when The Jerusalem Post, a prominent Israeli news outlet, initially referred to the baby as a “doll.” The publication later removed the article, acknowledging that it did not meet their editorial standards.

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Shayan Sardarizadeh, a journalist at BBC Verify specializing in fact-checking, noted the unprecedented volume of disinformation, fake stories, and manipulated images during the Hamas-Israel conflict. He highlighted the disturbing trend of intentionally dehumanizing victims on both sides, including women, children, civilians, hostages, and prisoners.

Responding to claims that the appearance of baby Muhammad’s body was misrepresented, Sardarizadeh explained that it was due to rigor mortis. The broader context of the conflict reveals a distressing toll, with over 6,000 children killed in Gaza since the IDF initiated a retaliation campaign following the October 7 terrorist attacks, resulting in 1,200 casualties.

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