Israel Palestine Conflict

White House backtracks Biden statement about Hamas beheading children

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The White House backtracked a statement by US President Joe Biden saying he had seen photos of Israeli children who were beheaded by Hamas.

In an address to Jewish community leaders at the White House on Wednesday, Biden said: “I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.”

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However, later that evening, a White House official told the Washington Post that Biden had not in fact seen any pictures confirming such an incident and had based his comments on claims he heard in Israeli media reports.

On Tuesday, an Israeli army spokesperson also confirmed that the army had no proof of Hamas beheading babies, Anadolu Agency reported.

Speaking with the agency over the phone, the spokeswoman said, “We do not have any details or confirmation about that.”

The false claims have caused quite a stir on social media with hundreds of pro-Israelis sharing statements alleging that Israeli children were being brutally killed by the militant group.

Fake news circulating online

This comes as European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned Elon Musk that his X social network, formerly known as Twitter, has done little to control the spread of illegal content and disinformation related to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

In the letter, which Breton posted on the social platform, he reminded Musk that he has an obligation to take “very precise content moderation measures under the European Union’s Digital Services Act and requested a response within 24 hours.

“We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service, despite flags from relevant authorities,” Breton wrote in the letter on Tuesday.

Breton cited reports of “fake and manipulated images and facts” on the platform, as well as “repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflict or military footage that actually originated from video games.”

A BBC Verify journalist, the corporation’s factchecking and disinformation unit, said that there had been a “deluge” of false posts on X since October 8, including from an account pretending to be a BBC reporter.

Shayan Sardarizadeh said on X that untrue posts from verified accounts, which pay for a blue tick, had been boosted across the platform.

He said X’s crowd-sourced factchecking function, community notes, could not cope with the number of false posts.

Other social media networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, have all been used as tools to spread fake and unverified videos that claim to be depicting scenes from on the ground.

One video widely circulating online claimed to show footage of “a new air assault on parts of Israel.” However, the New York Times confirmed that the clips were in fact taken from video game called Arma 3 posted on YouTube in 2022.

A snippet of a clip taken from the video game Arma 3. (Twitter)
A snippet of a clip taken from the video game Arma 3. (Twitter)

A representative for the game’s developer, Bohemia Interactive, has also confirmed the clip online was taken from the game.

Another video shared online, the chairman of the far-right Israeli group Britain First Ashlea Simon claimed that Israeli children kidnapped by Hamas were being held in cages.

“This is barbaric but what do you expect from savages,” Simon captioned the post on X, which has since been viewed more than two million times.

The Paris-based, French news agency France 24 confirmed that her claims were false and the video was originally posted on October 4, four days before Hamas’ attack.

France 24 could not verify the exact location of the video, but said some reports at the time of its publication had said that it depicted Palestinian children held in Israeli detention, while other reports said that it was of children in Syria.

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