Old photo of New Zealand oil spill falsely shared as Huthi attack

Yemen's Huthi rebels have attacked vessels in the Red Sea with drones and missiles following the outbreak of the Gaza war. A photo of containers balanced precariously on a cargo ship that surfaced in posts about the strikes, however, is unrelated. The New Zealand navy published the picture in a Facebook post about a ship that ran aground in October 2011.

"Yemeni players scored another goal targeting Israeli ships in the Red Sea," read a Bengali-language Facebook post shared on May 8, 2024.

Screenshot of the false post, taken May 19, 2024

The Huthis, who control much of Yemen, have launched drone and missile strikes into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November 2023, describing their attacks as an act of retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war.

The Iran-backed rebel attacks have prompted reprisal strikes by US and British forces and the formation of an international coalition to protect the vital shipping lanes.

The photo was shared in similar Facebook posts here and here.

New Zealand disaster

A reverse image search on Google found the picture posted on the Royal New Zealand Navy's Facebook page on October 5, 2020 (archived link).

According to the Facebook post, the photo shows the Rena container ship stranded off the coast of New Zealand after it hit a reef in 2011.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the falsely shared picture (left) and the Royal New Zealand Navy's picture (right):

Screenshot comparison of the falsely shared picture (left) and the Royal New Zealand Navy''s picture (right)

The Liberian-flagged vessel released an oil slick that killed thousands of sea birds after it ploughed into the offshore reef, fouling beaches in the North Island's pristine Bay of Plenty.

The accident triggered public fury and a dangerous salvage operation which involved crews scrambling to pump the remaining oil from the Rena's fuel tanks as heavy seas pounded the stricken vessel and opened up deep cracks in its hull.

The captain and second officer of the ship were both jailed in 2012 for their role in New Zealand's biggest sea pollution disaster.

AFP published footage of waves lapping around the stranded ship as it tilted to one side.

(AFPTV / POOL / -)

AFP has previously fact-checked photos and videos falsely presented online as Huthi attacks on Red Sea shipping.

The war in Gaza broke out after Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,900 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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