Fake social media accounts used to spread disinformation after the Gaza hospital blast

Fake social media accounts used to spread disinformation after the Gaza hospital blast

In the aftermath of Tuesday's hospital blast in Gaza, disinformation over where responsibility lies has flooded social media.

The explosion rocked the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians, according to the Gazan Health Ministry. The exact number of dead remains unclear and unverified.

Neither side has claimed responsibility. Gazan officials said it was caused by an Israeli airstrike, while Israel blamed a misfired rocket by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another powerful local militant group.

As of Friday morning, it is still unclear where the rocket came from.

On social media, confusion ensued as fake accounts impersonating journalists and government officials started popping up on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Fake Al-Jazeera journalist

A tweet by a so-called journalist called Farida Khan, who claims to work for the Al-Jazeera TV network, alleged in a now-deleted post that she witnessed a misfired Hamas rocket hitting the hospital.

Except no Farida Khan works for Al-Jazeera. The outlet issued a statement saying this account falsely claims its affiliation but has no link with Al-Jazeera, its opinions, or its content.

As multiple social media users pointed out, the account was created in September 2023 and had until then posted about Indian politics and cricket before suddenly starting to tweet about Gaza.

Copycat IDF account sparks online confusion

Another fake account that has caused a lot of confusion is one impersonating the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The viral tweet in Arabic crudely claimed responsibility for the explosion.

The tweet read: “Due to a lack of equipment and personnel, we decided to bomb the hospital to give them a death by euthanasia.” While it is hard to imagine any official account using such language, the post was massively shared.

However, a BBC journalist noted the profile photo used on X did not correspond to the official logo of the IDF.

The only Arabic-speaking social media page run by the Israeli army is that of Avichay Adraee, an Israeli officer responsible for communications in Arabic.

Avichay Adraee posted on Telegram saying: “I have not published any statement or comment regarding the hospital in Gaza. All information circulating in my name comes from Hamas media and is completely false.”

More outdated videos spread to lay the blame for the explosion

Online supporters of Israel shared video footage believing it's proof a failed Gazan rocket crashed into the hospital.

But as another BBC journalist pointed out, this video is actually from 2022, so it in no way relates to the explosion that occurred on Tuesday in Gaza.

On Wednesday, the IDF released a recording of what it says is an intercepted conversation between two Hamas militants acknowledging the hospital was hit by a projectile fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

However, it is not possible to independently verify this claim. In a statement, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad denied any involvement and blamed Israel for the blast.