Old Yemen, Gaza explosion photos falsely linked to US strikes in Syria

Shortly after the US military hit two facilities in eastern Syria, old explosion photos surfaced in social media posts that falsely linked them to the strikes. The pictures actually show an arms depot hit by strikes in Yemen in 2018 and Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip the same year.

"BREAKING: The US military has carried out MULTIPLE AIRSTRIKES on two locations in eastern Syria," says a Facebook post shared on October 27.

It features two photos that show huge explosions lighting up the night sky.

The US military hit two facilities in eastern Syria on October 26 that it said were used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups.

Washington said the strike was in response to attacks on US military personnel, who have been targeted more than 40 times with rockets and drones since October 17.

The surge in attacks on US troops is linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, which began when the militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7 that Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people.

Israel's military responded with a relentless air, land and naval assault on Gaza that the territory's health ministry said has left more than 10,500 people dead.

<span>A screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured November 8, 2023.</span>
A screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured November 8, 2023.

A similar post that falsely linked the explosion photos to the US strikes on Syria racked up more than 1.4 million views on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The post contains a Community Note -- promoted by the platform's owner Elon Musk as a tool to combat misinformation -- which incorrectly says the photos show US strikes in Syria in March 2023.

The Community Note cites an article by British newspaper The Guardian from on March 24 which falsely labels the photos as taken in Syria.

Reverse image searches, however, found the photos show separate explosions in Yemen and Gaza in 2018.

Misused images

The first photo was originally published by Reuters news agency on January 31, 2018 (archived link).

The photo caption says: "A Houthi arms depot explodes after it was hit by air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah."

The Huthis seized Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014 and control large swathes of the country.

A Reuters report about Yemen's civil war contains the same photo.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in false posts (left) and Reuters' photo (right) with identical features highlighted by AFP:

The second photo was taken by an AFP journalist in Gaza on July 20, 2018.

The photo caption of the picture, which is available in AFP's archives, says: "A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip."

"Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting several members of its military wing killed in the latest flare-up in months of tensions. SAID KHATIB / AFP."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in false posts (left) and AFP's photos (right) with identical features highlighted: