Fact Check: What To Know About Photo Allegedly Showing Israeli Soldier Posing in Front of Burning Books at University in Gaza

Instagram user @tair_glisko
Instagram user @tair_glisko


A photo from May 2024 authentically depicts an Israeli soldier posing in front of burning books at a university library in Gaza.


Rating: True
Rating: True


It is unclear whether the soldier pictured set the books on fire or another person present — such as whoever took the photo — started the blaze. The Israeli Military Police have opened an investigation into the incident. The location pictured appears to be the Central Library of the Islamic University of Gaza, not Al-Aqsa University (also in Gaza), as widely claimed. It is unclear to us, as of this writing, whether both universities — both now destroyed — shared the Central Library.


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In late May 2024, a photo depicting a soldier sitting in front of a shelf of burning books went viral, and many claimed it was an Israeli soldier. "Israeli soldiers set fire to books in Gaza's Aqsa University, posed in front of it, then posted the photo proudly to social media. Is this still 'self defence'?" one X user captioned the image.

Some X users questioned the authenticity of the photo, with some claiming that it was fake or digitally altered. "It's fake, come on please... there's a limit!" One X user wrote.

We looked into the claim and found sufficient evidence to conclude the photo is authentic, meaning that it was originally posted by a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and as far as we were able to determine, was not digitally altered in any way.

On May 24, 2024, the Israeli military announced that the Military Police were "investigating incidents in which soldiers filmed themselves burning books," according to The Times of Israel. The Israeli military's spokespersons unit said the "severe incidents" were "inconsistent with the values of the IDF and its protocols." Another photo in question depicts a soldier burning a Quran in a fire set in the mosque.

Who Originally Posted the Image?

X user @ytirawi originally posted the photo on X [archived here], citing Instagram account @tair_glisko [archived here].

Although the account is now private, X user @ytirawi took a screenshot of the account when it was still public.

(X user @ytirawi)

The text of the post, as translated by Google Translate, is as follows:

(Screenshot via X user @ytirawi; translation via Google Translate)

Was the Photo Really Taken at Al-Aqsa University Library?

According to X user @ytirawi, the soldier took the photo at "Aqsa University's library in Gaza City." Multiple other X accounts and outlets made the same claim. Upon comparing the background of the photo in question to photos of the Central Library at the Islamic University of Gaza posted by various social media accounts, we found that the interiors matched.

It is unclear to us whether both universities shared the Central Library. The two universities sit close to each other, with the Central Library geographically located between the campuses. The Israeli military destroyed both universities: Al-Aqsa University in January 2024 and the Islamic University of Gaza in October 2023.

In the following screenshot we took from Google Earth, the Central Library lies between the universities.

(Google Earth)

Using images from the Instagram account of the Central Library at the Islamic University of Gaza, X user @JakeGodin posted a series of comparative photos illustrating the similarities to the image in question.

(X user @JakeGodin)

We were able to independently confirm the Instagram photo, which was a screenshot from a story on the "Library" highlight.

(Instagram account @centrallibrary.iug)

Clear parallels can be seen, including the numbers "38" and "37," the shelves, the tape placement on the shelves, and the ceiling fan.

How Was the Library Still Standing if the Universities Were Destroyed?

While the Israeli military destroyed both the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Aqsa University campuses and heavily bombed the surrounding areas, it appears that the Central Library was left standing after both heavy bombardments. Agence France-Presse captured the following photo on Feb. 15, 2024. The Central Library stands directly to the left of the taller structure.

(Getty Images)

The Central Library stands to the left again in the following image of the Islamic University of Gaza from 2018.


(Wikimedia Commons)

In sum, because the photo originated from the account of an IDF soldier, because photos of the interior of the Central Library of the Islamic University of Gaza show clear parallels, and because the Israeli Military Police opened an investigation into photos of soldiers burning books, we rate this claim as "True."


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'Israeli Soldiers Burn Al-Aqsa University Library in Gaza Strip'. Anews, https://www.anews.com.tr/middle-east/2024/05/24/israeli-soldiers-burn-al-aqsa-university-library-in-gaza-strip. Accessed 31 May 2024.

'Which Universities in Gaza Has Israel Destroyed?' Middle East Eye, https://www.middleeasteye.net/explainer-gaza-israel-palestine-war-university-destroy. Accessed 31 May 2024.

חלבי, עינב, and יואב זיתון. 'לוחמים צולמו עם ספרים בוערים בעזה; צה"ל: "אירועים חמורים, מצ"ח חוקרת"'. Ynet, 24 May 2024. www.ynet.co.il, https://www.ynet.co.il/news/article/hjvhngcmc.