Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas government. An image that social media posts say shows a Palestinian child trapped under rubble, however, actually appeared online at least eight months before the Gaza war, triggered by an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants against Israel on October 7. The image also bears visual irregularities that suggest it had been AI-generated, an expert told AFP.
The image appearing to show a child trapped under concrete blocks was posted here on Facebook on October 19, 2023, and has since been shared more than 4,000 times.
“Just imagine it is your baby, how would you feel then! Long live, Long live Palestine”, reads the Bengali-language caption.
The post circulated after Hamas militants poured into Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians and taking 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
In response, Israel launched a military campaign to destroy Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians and including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.
A truce agreement that went into effect on November 24 has brought a temporary halt to seven weeks of fighting and saw dozens of Israeli hostages freed, with over 100 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel in return.
Comments from users suggested they believed it was genuine.
One wrote: “I feel like every bloodied Palestinian child is my child. It hits my heart. But I can’t do anything.”
“My heart is tearing apart seeing the photo. Want to rush there to take the baby in my lap. May God have mercy on them,” commented another.
However, AFP found the image circulated online months before Hamas’ October 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza.
Image predates war
A reverse search on TinEye found the image has been shared online as early as February 2023, eight months before the outbreak of the Gaza war.
The photo was shared by user on X, formerly Twitter, on February 8 in response to a post about relief works in Syria and Turkey following a devastating earthquake on February 6 that killed more than 50,000 people.
A Google reverse image search found the same image had also been shared on LinkedIn in February 2023.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in the false posts (left) and the image that circulated online in February 2023 (right):
A visual communications expert told AFP it was “highly likely” the picture was generated with AI tools.
Dr TJ Thomson, a senior lecturer at Australia’s RMIT University School of Media and Communications, told AFP there were anomalies in the creases in the child’s forehead and chin, as well as the fingers on the child’s left hand.
An analysis of the image showed the child appears to have too many fingers, which are also deformed.
Despite the advancements in generative AI, errors still show up in AI-generated content. Around the time the image appeared online, realistic hands had been difficult to generate using AI, AFP previously reported.
“Taken together, it appears highly likely that the image is AI-generated,” Thomson said on November 27 (archived link).
AFP has highlighted the anomalies Thomson pointed out in the screenshot of the false post below:
This image was also flagged as being generated by AI by the European verification project veraai.eu, in which AFP is a partner.
The user on X who shared the image in February has not responded to AFP’s inquiry about its origin.
AFP has repeatedly debunked misinformation around Israel-Hamas war here.