Clip from popular video game linked to false claims about Hamas helicopter attack

The unprecedented attacks launched by the Hamas militant group against Israel and the country's subsequent retaliation in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza are creating a minefield of misleading images and videos on social media. Posts purporting to show a Hamas fighter shooting down an Israeli “war helicopter” in Gaza circulated online a day after the latest conflict began. But the claim is false: the clip is a scene from a war simulation video game.

“Hamas fighters shooting down Israel war helicopter in Gaza (sic),” reads a post published on Instagram on October 8, 2023.

A screenshot shows the false claim, taken on October 10, 2023

Shared by a Nigerian account, the post has been liked more than 110 times, with commenters believing the clip to be real.

The video appears to show a soldier aiming a missile launcher at an attack helicopter flying at low altitude. As the helicopter drops decoy flares, the shooter fires, striking the helicopter on the third attempt.

The same claim and video also circulated on Facebook here and here and was shared in Arabic and Bengali.

Israel declared war on Hamas a day after the militant group launched shock land, air and sea attacks from Gaza on October 7, 2023.

In the days that followed, Israel retaliated with sustained assaults on what it called Hamas targets in Gaza (archived here).

Power, food and water supply to the Palestinian enclave were also cut by the Israeli authorities.

However, the claim that the video showed a Hamas fighter shooting down an Israeli war helicopter is false.

Video simulation

Using the InVID-WeVerify video verification tool to search keyframes from the clip, AFP Fact Check found that the footage was already online in early 2023.

A YouTube channel called RIM Studio published the video on February 23, 2023 (archived here). The caption explained that it showed a “military simulation” and that it was not “real life”.

“This video was created using content of Bohemia Interactive a.s.,” the US-based channel wrote. It also uploaded other similar clips, including here and here (archived here and here).

Bohemia Interactive, mentioned in the caption, is the maker of the ARMA 3 war video game. The hashtag “#Arma3” appears in the caption.

Game designer Ivan Butcha, contacted by AFP Fact Check, pointed out the precise location of the action (archive here).

“The shooter is roughly north of Pyrgos — the island with the 'bridge' is characteristic,” Buchta said, adding that the launcher seen in the clip is a “semi-fictional” weapon.

Screenshot of the overhead location of the shooter in the ARMA 3 video game, taken on October 11, 2023

Scenes from the game are commonly used in misleading claims linked to global conflicts, as previously debunked here, here and here by AFP Fact Check, as well as more recently in Israel.

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