Israel launched a retaliatory campaign in Gaza after a multipronged attack by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023, leaving thousands dead on both sides of the conflict. Several social media accounts claim a video shows Israeli forces raining down white phosphorus bombs on the densely-populated Palestinian enclave. But the claims are false: although a rights group has accused Israel of using incendiary munitions now and in the past, AFP Fact Check found that the video in the claim surfaced online months before the war triggered by the Hamas attack, and it shows a Russian bombardment of a Ukrainian village.
“Israel air force drops white Phosphorus bombs on Gaza,” reads an Instagram post published on October 11, 2023.
A screenshot shows the false claim, taken on October 11, 2023
The post, from an English-speaking Nigerian account, has been liked more than 330 times, with many commenters believing the claim.
A video in the post shows incendiary particles falling from the sky while a man speaking Ukrainian comments in the background.
Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, leaving at least 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians. The militant group took about another 150 individuals as hostages.
Meanwhile, officials in Gaza said Israel’s sustained retaliatory air and artillery strikes have killed at least 1,799 people and injured thousands more.
Although Israel has been accused of using phosphorus weapons in attacks on Gaza and Lebanon in recent days (archived here), the claim that the video shows Israeli forces unleashing them in Gaza is false.
The caption on the video explained that it showed Russian forces attacking Vuhledar, a town in Ukraine, with “thermite munitions”.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge)
March 11, 2023
‘Phosphorus attack on Gaza and Lebanon’
Israel’s bombardment over the Gaza City seaport on October 11, 2023 – MOHAMMED ABED / AFP
“Any time that white phosphorus is used in crowded civilian areas, it poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.
In 2009, HRW said the “extensive use of white phosphorus munitions” by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009, was deliberate and that it killed and injured civilians (archived here).
What the UN convention says about the use of incendiary bombs
The renewed conflict between Israel and Palestine has generated a wave of misinformation online. Follow our coverage here.