Old clip of crowded Lebanon airport falsely linked to escalating Israel-Hezbollah tensions

As escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah raised fears of a full-blown war, an old video of a crowded airport resurfaced with false claims it shows people fleeing Lebanon in June 2024. The claims are "not true", the country's civil aviation authority told AFP. The video has previously circulated since at least September 2023 in posts about congestion in the capital Beirut's airport due to holiday travel.

"Lebanese people are fleeing Lebanon -- a new war is coming," read a Thai-language Facebook post on June 24, 2024.

It included a 14-second video showing crowds at an airport. The video's Arabic text overlay said it was filmed at Beirut's airport.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken July 3, 2024

The post surfaced as Hezbollah has been exchanging near daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since its Palestinian ally Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, sparking war in Gaza.

A recent uptick in bellicose rhetoric from both sides has raised fears of a full-scale war between the region's most powerful army and Hezbollah, a highly influential paramilitary group.

The video was also shared with similar false claims in other Thai social media posts as well as those written English, ArabicHindi, Korean and Indonesian.

But Fadi El-Hassan, the director general of Lebanon's civil aviation agency, denied rumours of unusual airport departures from the country recently.

The circulating posts were "not true," he told AFP on June 24, 2024.

AFP journalists in Beirut also spoke to several travellers who said departure traffic was heavy as usual after the holidays but not out of the ordinary.

El-Hassan added inbound traffic to the country was actually higher for the month compared to the same period last year.

Misrepresented clip

Moreover, a reverse image search of a keyframe from the circulating video found it predates the war in Gaza and subsequent escalation of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

An identical video was earlier published by local media organisation Lebanon 24 on social media site X on September 2, 2023 (archived link).

The Arabic caption of the post translates as: "Video: Crowds on the departure line at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the false post (left) and the video published by Lebanon 24 (right):

Screenshot comparison between the false post (left) and the video published by Lebanon 24 (right)

Keyword searches on Google found media reports from the time here and here which indicated Beirut's airport was buzzing with travellers joining the Arbaeen pilgrimage to the holy Iraqi city of Karbala (archived links here and here).

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