Old photo of Netanyahu, son circulates amid war with Hamas

Social media posts in several languages are claiming a photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sending his son off to fight in his nation's war with Hamas, in which thousands have been killed. But the picture dates to 2014 -- years before Israel deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in response to a bloody attack by Palestinian militants.

"Israel PM Netanyahu sends his son to serve the country as a soldier," says an October 11, 2023 post sharing the image on X, formerly known as Twitter, which has been littered with misinformation about the conflict.

Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter, taken October 12, 2023

Similar posts spread in several languages across X and other platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, after Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented surprise attack October 7 -- the deadliest since Israel's founding 75 years ago.

Hundreds of Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip rushed across the border, gunning down civilians under a barrage of rockets and taking about 150 hostages, including Americans and other foreigners. In retaliation, Israel has pounded Gaza -- the densely populated, impoverished territory governed by Hamas and under a blockade for years -- with air strikes, leveling entire neighborhoods and sending residents fleeing for safety.

Israel also cut off water, electricity and food and deployed soldiers around the Palestinian enclave and on its northern border with Lebanon. The country called up some 300,000 reservists for the war -- an order that activates some former service members.

But the photo of Netanyahu reaching for his son Avner's face is nearly nine years old -- and any plans for the prime minister's sons to join the fight had not been released as of 1900 GMT on October 12.

A reverse image search reveals the shot was published by the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and other media outlets on December 1, 2014 (archived here and here).

The picture shows the younger Netanyahu reporting for military duty with the Israeli Defense Forces, as is required for all citizens 18 and older, with some exceptions. He joined a combat unit engaged in field intelligence, according to the reports.

The prime minister published the photo on his Facebook page that day, crediting it to Kobi Gideon of the state's Government Press Office (archived here).

He posted the picture again three years later when Avner completed his service (archived here).

Avner Netanyahu's departure and family farewells were also captured on video (archived here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict here.

Is there content that you would like AFP to fact-check? Get in touch.

Contact us