Old Syria explosion photo falsely portrayed as 'Israel in May 2024'

After reports emerged that an Iran-backed group said they launched a drone strike in southern Israel in May 2024, an old picture of a huge explosion resurfaced in a false context in Thai social media posts about the reported attack. The picture was actually taken by an AFP photographer in March 2019 and shows an explosion in a province in eastern Syria.

"Iraq shot drones targeting two spots in the occupied Palestinian territories. 10/05/2024," read part of Thai-language Facebook post on May 10, 2024.

It included a picture of a massive explosion lighting up the night sky.

"The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced that it has attacked the Ovda airbase, occupied Palestinian territories, on Thursday evening," the post said referring to a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups.

"This airbase is located near Eilat in the southern part of Israel," it added citing "Tasnim News" its source.

The details in the post correspond to a report by the Iranian news agency Tasnim News on the same day.

But archived versions of the report here, here and here did not include the picture.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken May 13, 2024

Regional tensions have soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, drawing in militant groups backed by Israel's arch-foe Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

The war broke out after Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's military retaliation has killed at least 35,200 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The picture was also shared in similar Thai posts here and here.

Syria explosion

A reverse image search on Google, however, found the picture was taken by AFP photographer Delil Souleiman in eastern Syria on March 11, 2019.

It can be viewed on AFP's archives here

The photo's caption read: "A picture taken in eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor shows explosions following shelling by the US-backed forces on the Islamic State group's embattled holdout of Baghouz, on March 11, 2019.

"US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pounded the last scrap of land held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria after hundreds more people surrendered.

"The jihadists once ruled over millions in a swathe of Syria and Iraq, but they have since lost all that territory except for a riverside slither of land near the Iraqi border."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the picture shared in the false posts (left) and photo on AFP's archives (right):

Screenshot comparison between the picture shared in the false posts (left) and photo on AFP's archives (right)

The picture was also published in multiple news reports about the raids in Baghouz in March 2019 here, here and here (archived links here, here and here).

AFP has fact-checked more misinformation about the Gaza war here.

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