IN SHORT: Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October 2023 have not been rescued nor has Hamas surrendered. These and other false claims have been shared by a YouTube channel that recently changed its name to imitate a news organisation.
Please note: This fact-checking report is about a breaking news story. Information was, as far as possible, correct at time of publication but may change rapidly.
On 7 October 2023, Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israeli territory. More than a thousand Israeli soldiers and citizens were killed and at least 200 were taken hostage.
Israel is a small country in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are territories within the borders of Israel. The people who live in Gaza and the West Bank are mainly Palestinian. Israel and Palestine have been in conflict for decades.
Gaza has been ruled by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, since 2007. The West Bank is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
However, several videos from the same source have been shared widely online since mid-October with the claim that Hamas has surrendered to Israel’s ground invasion. The most common version of the video, which looks as though it was created by a news outlet, claims that “the Hamas militia was forced to surrender to the Israeli army by waving their white flags in their hands”.
According to the video, branded with a logo reading “DCM Global”, the Israeli special forces unit Sayeret Matkal took part in a large military operation which rescued a number of Israeli hostages, “neutralised a large number of Hamas militia men”, and forced Hamas to surrender.
But this is not true. The video was first uploaded to a YouTube channel that appears to have changed ownership very recently, and almost exclusively shares unreliable claims about Israel and Palestine.
Claim is false, Hamas has not surrendered
Hamas has not been “forced to surrender to the Israeli army”. This has, at time of publication, not been reported by any major news outlets, the Israeli government, or representatives of Hamas. This would be a major news event and reported widely across the world.
At the time of writing, Israel continues to attack Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas has not been forced to surrender, and there has been no news of a large military operation by Israeli troops to free hostages, as the video claims. Some hostages have been released by Hamas or rescued by the Israeli military but over 200 people are still thought to be held captive.
The Israeli special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal, which the video claims was involved in the operation, is a real special forces unit known for taking part in hostage rescue operations. However, 21 October news reports about the unit claimed that it was preparing for a hostage rescue operation, and not that it had already conducted one.
Video raises red flags
PolitiFact fact-checked the same video and found it includes footage unrelated to the events being described. A clip of soldiers holding white flags, for example, was uploaded to YouTube in November 2022 with a caption suggesting that it had been filmed in Russia.
The video warns that the footage “is used for illustration” but it is suspicious that what is presented as a news report is using footage unrelated to the topic.
The narration over the video is also suspicious. It includes repeated mispronunciations and grammatical errors. The word “Hamas” for example, is pronounced several different ways throughout the video, as are words such as “Gaza” and “Israeli”.
This may simply be a sign of poor quality narration, but the stilted speech and inconsistent pronunciation heard in the video are hallmarks of speech generated by artificial intelligence (AI).
Using AI generated speech to deliver a news broadcast or including clearly labelled stock footage does not necessarily mean that a video is false. But these should be red flags that the video may not be trustworthy.
Africa Check also looked into the source of the video and found something unusual.
A YouTube channel overrun by disinformation
The video was originally uploaded to a YouTube channel called DCM Global, which is not a recognisable or reputable news organisation. It appears to have a related website although the site uses a free WordPress website template. It has not been customised and has not published original content.
The same YouTube channel has previously uploaded dozens of videos about Israel and Hamas, including two versions of the claim that Hamas had surrendered specifically by flying a white flag. This claim has already been debunked by fact-checking organisations PolitiFact and USA Today.
Another of the channel’s claims, that Egypt had sent troops and armoured vehicles into Gaza to fight Israel, was debunked by fact-checkers at DW. The channel has also recently posted videos which prominently feature other false claims, including that the Israeli army had rescued all hostages taken by Hamas.
But what is particularly unusual about DCM Global is that it used to be a very different YouTube channel.
DCM Global’s first “news” video, a false claim that Hamas had surrendered to the Israeli military, was uploaded on 11 October. Until that point, the channel was apparently named “Geblo”, and uploaded only videos of a Turkish videogame streamer going by the name “Geblo” or “Ben Geblo”. The URL youtube.com/geblo currently redirects to DCM Global’s channel.
On 4 October, Geblo uploaded a video in which, according to machine-transcribed and translated Turkish captions, he said he was leaving the channel as it was not bringing in enough money. He also shared a link to an alternative channel where he suggested he may upload videos in future, given enough demand.
It is unclear whether Geblo is still in control of the channel, or whether he passed it on to whoever runs DCM Global. Geblo may also have passed on the channel’s nearly half a million subscribers, some paying for a channel membership at the time he made his goodbye video.
However, this history does indicate that DCM Global used the popularity of the Geblo channel to ensure that its false claims about Israel and Hamas would be more widely viewed.
Videos from this channel cannot be trusted and should be ignored.
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