Social Media Posts Misrepresent Video of IDF Aircraft Attack

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Quick Take

At least 260 people were killed by Hamas during the militant group’s surprise attacks at an outdoor music festival in Israel on Oct. 7. A video clip on social media falsely claims to show Israel Defense Forces helicopters firing on festival-goers that day. The clip is from a video of IDF aircraft shooting at Hamas militants a day later at sites in the Gaza Strip.


Full Story

During the Oct. 7 surprise attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, at least 260 people were killed at an outdoor concert, the Tribe of Nova music festival near Kibbutz Reim, as we’ve written.

About 240 Israelis and other nationals were taken hostage during the attacks at the festival and other locations in southern Israel.

Since war broke out between Israel and Gaza, about 1,200 Israelis and more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed as of Nov. 20, the United Nations said, citing Israeli official sources and the Gaza Ministry of Health, respectively. The majority of Israeli casualties occurred during Hamas’ initial attacks on Oct. 7.

News reports about the attacks have included video of the aftermath of the violence at the festival and interviews with survivors.

As rockets fell on the festival crowd, the attackers converged on the site in trucks and on motorcycles, firing AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at the fleeing revelers, according to reporting by the Associated Press based on survivors’ accounts.

But posts on social media, including a Nov. 9 post from conspiracy theorist Stew Peters, falsely claim that a video shows many of the festival-goers were killed by Israeli helicopter fire, not the Hamas attackers.

“VIDEO PROVES and ISRAEL ADMITS it slaughtered its own people on Oct. 7th,” Peters falsely claims in the post on X, the platform formerly called Twitter. “Footage from Israeli helicopter shows the IDF killing many people at October 7 concert in Israel.”

Peters, a conservative radio host, also has spread misinformation about COVID-19 and other topics, as we’ve previously written.

The 14-second video clip in Peters’ post appears to be green-tinted, infrared aerial footage of explosions on the ground and people running from the assault. The text on the post claims, “IDF helicopters fired on civilians fleeing the PsyTrance Music Festival.”

In addition to the video, the post includes a link to an Oct. 30 article in the Middle East Monitor, a website that says it supports the “Palestinian cause.” That article includes a quote that reads: “Israeli commanders made ‘difficult decisions’ including ‘shelling houses on their occupants in order to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages.’” The quote is attributed to a security coordinator at Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the settlements attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7. 

But the aerial footage shown in the post comes from a longer compilation video shared by the IDF on Oct. 9 on X. The video shows aerial bombings at several sites in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 8 — the day after the Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7. The text on the IDF post, translated from Hebrew, reads: “Forces @idfonline Throughout the last day, Air Force planes have been carrying out extensive attacks along the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip, wreaking havoc on Hamas terrorists. In just the last three hours, about 130 targets were attacked using dozens of planes. The focus of the attack: Beit Hanon, Sajaya, Al Furkan and Rimal.”

Those locations are in the northern Gaza Strip; two are neighborhoods in Gaza City.

In response to the social media posts, the IDF told Newsweek in a story published Nov. 13: “On October 9, a video was published on the IDF’s official Twitter account describing IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip. The purpose of the strikes was to stop the murderous terrorists from penetrating into Israel to commit brutal and inhumane crimes. The viral post of an airstrike on the Nova festival is fake.”

The French television network France 24 debunked the claims about the video shared on social media in a Nov. 14 broadcast. An analysis cited in that report found that the infrared footage of the helicopter assault was taken at a location 10 kilometers, or six miles, away from the site of the music festival.

News Reports of Possible Friendly Fire

News reports have noted the possibility that Israeli forces fired on Israelis during their response to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

In its Nov. 14 report, France 24 cited media reports that Israeli helicopter pilots had difficulty distinguishing militants from civilians on Oct. 7.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Nov. 18 that “according to a police source, an investigation into [the attack on the festival] also revealed that an IDF helicopter that arrived on the scene from the Ramat David base fired at the terrorists and apparently also hit some of the revelers who were there.” (The Haaretz article was translated from Hebrew by Google.)

Responding to that report, the Israeli police issued a statement saying its investigation did not focus on IDF operations at the concert site and did not provide “any indication about the harm of civilians due to aerial activity there,” the Times of Israel reported on Nov. 19.

We emailed the media offices of the Israel Defense Forces for an explanation of the video footage shared on social media and a response to the Haaretz report that a helicopter fired at Israelis.

A spokesperson for the IDF North American media desk told us in a Nov. 23 email, “The Israel Police clarifies that the investigation carried out by the Southern District focused on the heroism of the police officers who acted to stop the massacre committed by Hamas.

“Contrary to the misleading publication, the police investigation does not refer to the activity of the IDF forces, and therefore no indication was given of any harm to civilians caused by any aerial activity at the site.

“The preliminary findings of the ongoing national inquiry, spearheaded by law enforcement and communicated to the international media, cast a spotlight on the profound and reprehensible acts committed by Hamas terrorists during the Nova music festival. Any effort to downplay the severity of these atrocities, as depicted in the misleading Haaretz newspaper publication, deserves unequivocal rejection,” the IDF spokesperson said.

We cannot say whether there were any cases of friendly fire by Israeli forces responding to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. But the social media posts that claim the IDF video proves “many people” were killed by the IDF at the music festival are false.


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

ABC News. “Hundreds killed at music festival in Israel | GMA.” YouTube. 7 Oct 2023.

Bohannon, Molly. “At Least 260 Killed At Israeli Music Festival In Hamas Attack — Attendees Describe ‘Horror Movie.’” Forbes. 8 Oct 2023.

Breiner, Joshua. “Assessment in the security establishment: Hamas did not know in advance about the Nova festival, and recognized it from the air.” Haaretz. 18 Nov 2023.

Debre, Isabel and Michael Biesecker. “Israeli survivors recount terror at music festival, where Hamas militants killed at least 260.” Associated Press. 9 Oct 2023.

Gal, Shi. “‘Save us’: The Apache pilots who arrived first on the battlefield speak.” N12. 21 Oct 2023.

Gillet, Francesca, and Alice Cuddy. “Israeli music festival: 260 bodies recovered from site where people fled in hail of bullets.” BBC. 9 Oct 2023.

Israel Defense Forces, North American Media Desk. Spokesperson. Email to FactCheck.org. 23 Nov 2023.

Marchant de Abreu, Catalina. “Truth or Fake: Israeli army did not fire on own civilians at Nova music festival.” France 24. 14 Nov 2023.

Media Line (@themedialine). “Survivors From the South: Victims of Hamas’ Terror Speak From Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.” YouTube. 9 Oct 2023.

Middle East Monitor. “Report: 7 October testimonies strike major blow to Israeli narrative.” 30 Oct 2023.

Norton, Tom. “Fact Check: Does Video Show Israeli Helicopter Shoot Festival Goers?” Newsweek. 13 Nov 2023.

Picheta, Rob. “Shani Louk, 23-year-old kidnapped by Hamas from music festival, declared dead, Israel says.” CNN. 31 Oct 2023.

Spencer, Saranac Hale, and D’Angelo Gore. “What We Know About Three Widespread Israel-Hamas War Claims.” FactCheck.org. Updated 14 Nov 2023.

Times of Israel. “Israel Police slams ‘Haaretz’ claim IDF helicopter may have harmed civilians on Oct. 7.” 19 Nov 2023.

United Nations. “Gaza: ‘Thousands of children killed’ within a few weeks, says UN’s Guterres.” UN News. 20 Nov 2023.

Zeyton, Yoav. “Hamas deception of IDF helicopters and directing pilots on WhatsApp | Air Force on the 1st.” Ynet. 15 Oct 2023.

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