Old clip shows filming of Palestinian short movie, not 'child's death staged in Gaza'

Behind-the-scenes footage from a short fictional film has resurfaced in posts in 2024 viewed tens of thousands of times that falsely claimed it showed a child's death being staged in Gaza during the war with Israel. The clip -- taken on the set of a March 2022 film about a firefighter in the Palestinian territory -- is one of the latest to be misused alongside false claims about faked deaths and injuries in the conflict.

"This clip is a behind-the-scenes shot of 'children killed' in Gaza," read the simplified Chinese caption of a Weibo video shared on May 17, 2024. 

The video shows a child in a red hoodie smiling as he is helped off a table by two men in a room strewn with debris.

The scene appears to have been part of a film set, as the video shows a camera operator and various other people watching from the other side of the room.

Text below the video reads "@GAZAWOOD1" -- a derogatory portmanteau blending "Gaza" and "Hollywood" used to describe video and images allegedly showing injuries and deaths in Gaza that were staged and then shared to elicit sympathy from the public.

AFP has previously debunked claims about videos that supposedly showed "crisis actors" in Gaza here, here and here.

Screenshot of the false Weibo post, captured on June 3, 2024

The video was viewed tens of thousands of times alongside similar claims in Chinese on X here and here; and in EnglishArabic and Hebrew. It also circulated on Facebook in Spanish.

It was posted nearly eight months into the Gaza war, which was sparked by Hamas' October 7 attack on southern Israel.

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest Israeli official figures. Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,439 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

But the clip circulating online is part of a film released more than a year and a half before the start of the war in Gaza.

Film set footage

A combination of reverse image and keyword searches on Google led to the same video shared by TikTok user "@m_zaqout" on February 15, 2022 (archived link).

The video's Arabic-language description read, "New Movie".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video shared in the false post (left) and the video published on TikTok (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video shared in the false post (left) and the video published on TikTok (right)

The user's full name is Mahmoud Maher Zaqout, according to his TikTok profile (archived link). 

Subsequent keyword searches on Google led to his Instagram profile, where he describes himself as a videographer, photographer and a "Palestinian from Gaza".

In an Instagram story on May 17, 2024, Zaqout posted screenshots of a Facebook post by Israeli politician Ofir Gendelman refuting claims that the film set footage showed a"Gaza boy working for Hamas false propaganda".

"This is behind-the-scenes footage of an old movie, filmed in 2022," Zaqout wrote on Instagram, as shown in the screenshot below:

Screenshot of Mahmoud''s Instagram story from May 17, 2024

Zaqout, now in Egypt, told AFP that he is one of the men in the clip who helped the child get off the table.

He also shared the film's final version on his Instagram account on March 2, 2022 (archived link).

On the same day, it was posted on the official Facebook page of the Palestinian civil defence, with an Arabic-language caption that read "World Civil Defence Day" -- referring to an annual event founded by the Geneva-based International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) (archived link).

Zaqout told AFP's Spanish-language team in Argentina that the film shows the "life of a firefighter". 

In the final film, the child in the red hoodie was shown being rescued after an explosion, but he was filmed lying on the floor rather than on a table.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the falsely shared video (left) and a scene from the film released in 2022 (right), with corresponding features highlighted by AFP:

Screenshot comparison between the falsely shared video (left) and a scene from the film released in 2022 (right)

AFP has debunked other misinformation linked to the Israel-Hamas war here.

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