Mexican military celebration misrepresented as helicopters enroute to Gaza

A video viewed millions of times on TikTok purportedly shows Arab countries sending helicopters toward the Gaza Strip, which Israel has pummeled with air strikes following a deadly attack by Hamas. But the clip was filmed before the conflict and shows choppers in Veracruz, Mexico flying with Mexican -- not Palestinian -- flags.

"Finally Arab countries Start moving towards Gaza to help," says text over an October 21, 2023 TikTok video, which received 6 million views.

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Screenshot from TikTok taken October 24, 2023

Similar posts spread across TikTok and other platforms, such as YouTube, as the United Nations warned that aid is desperately needed in the besieged Gaza Strip, the impoverished territory governed by Hamas.

Israel has cut off normal supply corridors for water, food and fuel to Gaza while bombarding it with air strikes in response to Hamas's bloody October 7 assault.

The shock attack, the worst in Israeli history, saw throngs of Hamas militants rush into Israel, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 200 hostages, according to official tallies.

According to Gaza's Hamas-led health ministry, Israel's bombing has killed more than 7,000 people, also mainly civilians.

The video circulating online does not show aid from Arab nations on the way, despite the posts' claims.

AFP could not determine the original source of the footage, but some comments on the post suggested it was filmed in Veracruz, Mexico. A search of TikTok and other platforms revealed numerous other videos and photos that appear to show the same flag-bearing helicopters (archived here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Those posts describe the three helicopters as being part of an aerial parade in Veracruz -- thousands of miles from Gaza -- during festivities held on October 4, days before the Hamas attack that triggered the war with Israel.

The celebration marked the 202nd anniversary of the Mexican navy's creation (archived here, here and here).

 

Other photos and footage of the choppers appear in coverage of the event (archived here, here and here), as well as in a live stream from the Veracruz government and a Facebook post the Mexican Navy Secretary shared after the celebration (archived here and here).

 

 

Google Maps Street View imagery from a street along the port, Comodoro Manuel Azueta, shows matching buildings, roads, lamp posts, and other structures (archived here and here).

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Screenshots from TikTok taken October 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP
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Screenshots from Google Maps Street View taken October 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP

 

 

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Screenshots from TikTok taken October 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP
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Screenshots from Google Maps Street View taken October 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP

 

 

Luis Antonio Casas, from the General Directorate of Institutional Information for Government of Veracruz, told AFP the video is indeed from the October 4 celebration.

"The information that that video says (about the conflict in Israel) is false," Casas said in an October 26 WhatsApp message. "It is an aerial demonstration on the occasion of Navy Day."

The flag hanging from the first helicopter is the flag of Mexico. The other flags appear to carry a symbol representing the country's navy and an emblem for the 202nd anniversary of the force's creation.

The Palestinian flag features similar colors but does not appear in the footage.

AFP reached out to the Mexican navy for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

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

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