Old Saudi fire picture falsely shared online as 'US, UK strikes on Yemen rebels in 2024'

  • Published on January 15, 2024 at 07:27
  • Updated on January 19, 2024 at 04:10
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Pakistan
Hours after US and British forces hit scores of targets in Yemen following weeks of attacks on Red Sea shipping by Huthi rebels, a photo of a massive fire resurfaced in social media posts that falsely claimed it showed the strikes. But in reality, the picture shows a blaze at a Saudi oil storage facility following an attack in March 2022 that was claimed by the Huthis.

"For anyone thinking the war is over, this is Yemen MINUTES ago," reads an X post that shared the photo on January 12, 2024. 

The post surfaced after US and British forces launched a barrage of strikes against Huthis, who have controlled much of Yemen since a civil war erupted in 2014. The rebels are part of an Iran-backed "axis of resistance" against Israel and its allies.

The Huthis have intensified attacks on what they deem Israeli-linked shipping in the Red Sea -- through which 12 percent of global maritime trade normally passes -- since Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel triggered the Gaza war on October 7.

Since the war began, violence involving Iran-aligned groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria has surged.

Britain, the United States and eight allies said the strikes aimed to "de-escalate tensions". But Iran and other governments condemned the Western action or warned that unrest could worsen.

Screenshot of the false post taken on January 15, 2024

The photo was shared in similar posts on X around the world, including from users in India, Nepal, Somalia, Nigeria and the United States -- while AFP has debunked posts in Arabic.

Some of the X posts were subsequently labelled with a Community Note -- promoted by the platform's owner Elon Musk as a tool to combat misinformation -- which says the picture is not recent and shows a fire in Saudi Arabia in March 2022.

Saudi fire

A reverse image search on Google found the photo was originally published by the Reuters news agency in a March 26, 2022 report about a Huthi attack in a Saudi petroleum storage site in the port city Jeddah (archived link).

The photo's caption reads: "A view of a fire at Saudi Aramco's petroleum storage facility, after an attack, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 25, 2022."

According to the Reuters report, Huthis said they launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities, with the oil giant Aramco's petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah hit, causing a fire in two storage tanks but no casualties.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo shared in the false posts (left) and the photo originally published by Reuters (right):


The photo had also appeared in reports about the fire at the time here and here (archived here and here).

A similar claim shared on Facebook in Ethiopia featured the same photograph, plus three more photos that also showed the March 2022 attack in Jeddah. The three other photos were published by AFP here, here and here.

The story was updated to fix a broken link in the second paragraph.The story was updated to add that similar claim was shared in Ethiopia.The story was amended to fix metadata.
January 19, 2024 The story was updated to fix a broken link in the second paragraph.
January 18, 2024 The story was updated to add that similar claim was shared in Ethiopia.
January 17, 2024 The story was amended to fix metadata.

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

Contact us