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No, video shows 2013 Tadamon massacre in Syria – not Israeli war crimes in Gaza in 2023

IN SHORT: The footage shows forces loyal to Syrian president Bashir al-Assad executing civilians in Damascus in 2013, not the Israeli defence force committing war crimes during its ground operation into Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

Warning: This report fact-checks a distressing video. Discretion is advised. It also includes details about a breaking news story. Information was, as far as possible, correct at the time of publication but may change rapidly. 

“Israeli military are conducting a war crime on the ground operation in Gaza,” reads a typical caption to a video circulating on social media in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia and elsewhere since early November 2023.

It continues: “They're doing exactly what Hitler did to them. Please share it before they take it out of social media as they control the social media. Let It go very viral.”

The extremely graphic video shows uniformed men throwing or kicking blindfolded civilians into a large pit dug into a city street. The pit is full of tyres, and bodies. The civilians are then shot and quickly lie still. The soldiers can be heard laughing.

But the video is more than 10 years old and was filmed in Syria, not Gaza. 


A new war in Israel and Gaza

Israel is a country in the Middle East and the world’s only Jewish state.

The Gaza Strip is a narrow, densely populated and poor territory within Israel. Its inhabitants are mostly Palestinian people. Gaza has been controlled by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, since 2007.

Israel and Palestine have been in conflict for decades.

On 7 October, Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza, killing a reported 1,400 people. More than 200 hostages were seized and taken to Gaza.

Israel responded with rocket strikes into Gaza and declared war on Hamas on 8 October. The next day it closed Gaza’s borders, cutting off essential supplies.

In late October the Israeli army began to invade Gaza in a “ground operation”.

By 20 November more than 13,300 people within Gaza had been killed by the Israeli actions, at least 5,600 of them children. At least 6,000 people were missing within the territory. 

‘At least 41 men lay dead in the mass grave in Tadamon’

But the video actually shows the Tadamon massacre of 2013. Tadamon is a suburb of Damascus, the capital of the Middle Eastern country of Syria.

At the time, Syria was two years into the ongoing civil war between the government of president Bashar al-Assad and several local and foreign forces fighting both the regime and each other.

In April 2013 members of Assad’s military intelligence service rounded up civilians in Tadamon, blindfolded and handcuffed them, and marched them to the pit where they were shot.

“When the killings were over, at least 41 men lay dead in the mass grave in Tadamon, their murderers pouring fuel on their remains and igniting them, laughing as they covered up a war crime just several miles from Bashar al-Assad's seat of power,” the UK’s Guardian reported.

The footage only came to light in 2022, when it was published by the Guardian. A new recruit to Assad’s militia had, three years earlier, leaked it to two academics compiling evidence of atrocities in the civil war. He had discovered the video on a security service laptop.

In August 2023 one of the men implicated in the massacre was arrested in Germany.

The video does not show the Israeli military committing war crimes in Gaza in 2023.

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