Fact check: Photo of Palestinian child in tears not from recent Israeli airstrikes

The claim: A photo of a Palestinian child in tears with a book in hand shows the aftermath of recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza

Before Israel and the militant group Hamas reached a cease-fire, at least 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed in airstrikes over the course of 11 days. The conflict produced many images of death and destruction, some of which show children.

However, not all the photos circulating online depict the recent violence.

In one now-deleted Facebook post, a photo shows a young girl crying as she clutches a stack of papers. The image was published May 14 in a public Facebook group with more than 250,000 members.

“These innocents search for their books and notebooks after the Israeli bombing,” the post’s caption says. 

Fact check: Viral video doesn’t show Hamas staging child’s funeral

The caption and timing of the photo suggests it depicts the aftermath of a recent Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Severalusers who shared the post commented with similar observations. 

USA TODAY could not verify the location of the photo, but the image does not show the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. The photo dates back to at least 2018.

Photo from 2018, not mid-May

It’s unclear where and when the photo in the Facebook post was taken, but it  cannot be a depiction of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip because it’s more than two years old.

The earliest appearance of the photo that USA TODAY could find online dates to Dec. 7, 2018, when photographer Fadi Abdallah Thabet posted it on his Instagram page. Both Thabet’s photo and the Facebook photo have his watermark in the lower left-hand corner. 

In his 2018 post, Thabet claimed ownership of the photo and said it showed a “little girl from the Gaza Strip.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Fadi A Thabet (@fadi_a_thabet)

“Share this photo to be an icon of the Right to Education and Life, share this photo of this little girl from Gaza Strip to send a message to the free world that the occupation is the worst of what humanity has ever produced, and that the children worldwide have their rights preserved in accordance to the International agreements,” the caption says.

The caption does not say the photo was taken after a bombing, so it is unclear when it became associated with one. However, several Twitter users haveshared it with the same claim. 

The Facebook user who shared the post told USA TODAY in a message that the photo is from the eastern part of Gaza. USA TODAY could not independently verify where or when the photo was taken, but online records prove the photo was not taken after the recent airstrikes in Gaza.

USA TODAY reached out to Thabet for comment.

Our rating: False

The claim that a photo of a Palestinian child in tears shows the aftermath of recent Israeli bombings in Gaza is FALSE, based on our research. The photo has circulated online since at least December 2018. There is also no evidence that the photo captures the aftermath of a bombing.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Fadi Abdullah Thabet, Dec. 7, 2018, Instagram post
  • Twitter user @jjaber, Nov. 18, 2019, tweet
  • Twitter user @_SJPeace_, May 22, 2020, tweet
  • Google Reverse Image Search, accessed May 18
  • USA TODAY, May 20, Israel, Hamas agree to cease-fire after hundreds killed in Gaza
  • Associated Press, May 21, Israel, Hamas agree to cease-fire to end bloody 11-day war
  • Facebook user M. Faheem, May 14, Facebook post

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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