Video of South Korea counterterror drill in 2019 falsely linked to Israel-Hamas war

Misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war has flooded social media since the fighting erupted on October 7, killing thousands of civilians on both sides of the conflict. In the latest case, TikTok videos with millions of views shared footage of men in military uniform storming onto a bus, claiming it showed Hamas militants. The clip in fact shows a counterterrorism drill in South Korea in 2019.

"How many Thais have to die? Damn you, Hamas," reads Thai-language text superimposed on a TikTok video posted on October 12.

Hamas militants seized around 240 hostages -- including at least 32 Thais -- when they stormed out of Gaza into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and has pummelled Gaza with air strikes and a ground offensive that have killed more than 16,200 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

A week-long pause in the fighting in late November allowed scores of hostages to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

The TikTok adds: "Fire first, but ask for a truce later. It may not be that easy… Israel & Hamas. Why did you start the war if you can't win?"

The video shows men in military uniform jump onto a bus through a broken window, before unarmed people emerge with their hands on their heads.

Screenshot of a TikTok post sharing the false claim

Similar posts falsely linked the video to the Israel-Hamas war here, here, and here, with many TikTok users appearing to believe the video showed Hamas militants.

"They are terrorists!" one comment read.

"I'm rooting for Israel. May everyone and Thai people be safe," another read.

South Korea counterterror drill

The bus in the video features Korean text that says "Gwangju world" and "swimming."

A reverse image search of keyframes on Google found similar footage posted on YouTube on June 5, 2019 by South Korean television channel KTV (archived link).

The video's title says in Korean: "Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon attends anti-terrorism training at the Gwangju World Aquatics Championships."

Below is a screenshot comparison of a video in the false posts (left) and KTV's video (right), with similar elements marked by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of a video in the false posts (left) and KTV's YouTube video (right), with similar elements marked by AFP

The video's description says: "Gwangju City conducted comprehensive counterterror training at Yeomju Gymnasium on the 4th to ensure safety at the upcoming 2019 Gwangju World Aquatics Championships."

The 2019 World Aquatics Championships were held in Gwangju, South Korea, from July 12 through July 28, 2019 (archived link).

According to KTV's report, the video shows members of the 707th Special Mission Group -- an elite counter-terrorism unit of the Republic of Korea Army Special Welfare Command formed in 1981 and deployed to beef up security during the Asian Games in 1986 and the 1988 Olympics (archived link).

A keyword search in Korean on Google found various news reports about the drill, including by Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo (archived links here and here).

AFP has debunked more misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war here.

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