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Thousands of Palestinians flee Gaza for Egypt during Israel-Hamas war? No, video shot in Azerbaijan

IN SHORT: The Gaza Strip’s only border crossing into Egypt has largely been closed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, so a viral video of thousands of people passing through a gate is unlikely to show “Palestinians fleeing to Egypt”. And it doesn’t. The clip is from Azerbaijan.

Please note: This fact-checking report is about a breaking news story. Information was, as far as possible, correct at the time of publication but may change rapidly.

“Palestinians fleeing to Egypt” reads text on a video circulating on social media in Nigeria since 15 October 2023.

It shows a crowd of thousands of people packed into the T-junction of two roads and slowly passing through a gate with buildings behind it.

The clip first appeared online a week after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. The Islamic Resistance Movement or Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a narrow territory that lies mainly inside Israel but borders Egypt to the southwest. The strip is densely populated and poor. Its people are mainly Palestinian.

On 7 October, Hamas began an attack on Israel from Gaza. Rockets were launched and thousands of armed men crossed the Gaza border, taking hostages and killing a reported 1,400 people in Israel.

Israel responded with its own rocket strikes into Gaza and declared war on Hamas on 8 October.

A day later Israel imposed a total blockade on Gaza, cutting electricity and stopping all supplies – food, water, medicine, fuel and more – from entering the territory.

That left the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border the single way in or out of Gaza. But the crossing was closed by Egyptian authorities after Israeli bombardments began.

The crossing is at the time of writing opened only rarely for humanitarian purposes.

The war’s death toll inside Gaza is estimated at more than 10,500 people.

The video can also be seen here, here, here, here and here. But does it really show Palestinians fleeing from Gaza to Egypt?


Parents after Azerbaijani soldiers’ swearing-in ceremony

The first sign that the video was filmed elsewhere is that the scene bears no resemblance to the Rafah crossing, the only place Palestinians in Gaza could “flee to Egypt”.

Second is a blue, red and green striped flag seen at the 43-second mark. It’s the flag of Azerbaijan, a country on the boundary of eastern Europe and western Asia.

Africa Check took a screenshot of the first frame of the video and ran it through a Yandex reverse image search.

This led us to a version of the video, without the overlaid text, posted on instant messaging service Telegram on 13 August.

We put its caption into Google Translate, which identified the language as Azerbaijani.

The translation reads: “A crowd of parents after the swearing-in ceremony of young soldiers in military unit No. N.”

A Google search for the Azerbaijani caption then led us to two more instances of the video uploaded on YouTube in August, before the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

It also led us to a press release on the Azerbaijan defence ministry website. This says the 2023 “swearing-in ceremonies of young soldiers” in “ground forces, special general army, air force, other types of troops and special military units” was held on 13 August.

A second press release describes celebrations attended by the soldiers’ parents after the ceremony.

The video does not show Palestinians fleeing to Egypt. It was shot in Azerbaijan.

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