What is ‘All eyes on Rafah’? The image going viral on social media

Millions of social media users, including some celebrities, are taking to Instagram to share an image with the slogan “All eyes on Rafah” to raise awareness for the ongoing conflict as Israeli troops continue to progress through the heavily populated city in the Gaza Strip.

The image, which many experts are confident is generated by artificial intelligence (AI), flooded social media, especially Instagram stories, following an Israeli strike that set fire to a displaced persons camp in Rafah — killing an estimated 45 Palestinians and wounding another 200. The image shows rows of tents in front of a mountain range behind the words “All eyes on Rafah.”

As of Wednesday evening, it was reposted on Instagram stories 45.3 million times.

The phrase stems from a statement made in February by Richard “Rik” Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, according to Health Policy Watch.

“All eyes are on Rafah,” Peeperkorn said during a WHO press briefing from Rafah after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered its more than 1 million residents to evacuate the city.

Since then, the phrase has been quoted numerous times on protest signs, images and more, serving as an urgent call to focus on the crisis in Rafah.

Multiple celebrities reposted the photo, including models Gigi and Bella Hadid and actors Aaron Paul, Mark Ruffalo, Jenna Ortega, Nicola Coughlan, Susan Sarandon, and Priyanka Chopra.

Despite its widespread sharing, some social media users and activists were critical of the image because it is seemingly AI-generated, according to multiple experts. However, Instagram has yet to label the image as such.

“It doesn’t depict real-world violence. Although it feels sanitized, that is what has enabled it to have the level of viral reach that it has received so far,” Matt Navarra, a social media consultant, told The Washington Post.

In response to the viral image, several pro-Israel creators began posting their own versions of the image, including the state of Israel’s official Instagram account, with one version saying, “Where were your eyes on October 7?”

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