Too little is known about the image and its origin to determine if it authentically shows an armed Israeli soldier confronting a Palestinian family. In any case, the picture has been circulating online since at least 2001, meaning it was not captured during the 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict.
The protracted, often bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict exploded into a hot war on Oct. 7, 2023, when the militant Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel and Israel retaliated by bombarding the Gaza Strip. More than 20,000 people, the vast majority of them Palestinians, were reportedly killed during the first two months of the war alone. The violence is driven by mutual hostilities and territorial ambitions dating back more than a century. The internet has become an unofficial front in that war and is rife with misinformation, which Snopes is dedicated to countering with facts and context. You can help. Read the latest fact checks. Submit questionable claims. Become a Snopes Member to support our work. We welcome your participation and feedback.
Photographs have the power to shape narratives and stir emotions. On Dec. 4, 2023, a photograph shared on X with the caption "Brave IDF" allegedly showed an armed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier confronting a woman and two children. The photograph in question sparked debates and speculation across various online platforms.
Brave IDF pic.twitter.com/9sefOYlvfH
— Ryan Dawson (@RyLiberty) December 4, 2023
We found that the image was shared multiple times after Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. "Where was the media then?" one X user asked.
where was the media then ? pic.twitter.com/zv1ynQLkG1
— aya (@rmacfede) October 7, 2023
But the photograph wasn't taken in 2023. We used Google, Yandex, and Bing reverse-image search engines to attempt to find out more about its origins. "Israel soldier against a Palestinian woman with her kids," one post on Pinterest read. "Old photo, but what is known about these people are how coward they are, they always try to target women & children," another post on Instagram captioned the viral image. Some social media users doubted the authenticity of the photograph. For instance, one comment on X read, "This picture is fake. Who made it doesn't know how to use the Photoshop."
TinEye reverse image search results indicated that the image has been shared online at least since 2008.
However, we found a blog post from 2013 that claimed the image was captured in 2002. It read (emphasis ours):
The picture above is one of the more famous instruments of Palestinian propaganda. It is found on many Palestinian and pro–Palestinian sites, and had reached iconic levels even at leftwing circles. It was taken in 2002 during 'Operation Defensive Shield.' This was Israel's largest counter-terrorism operation, which ended nearly a year and a half of mass murder attacks on Israeli civilians.
Investigating on the matter, we found that the image was used back in 2001 in an Al Jazeera article with the title (we translated it using Google Translate) "One martyr and three wounded in a bombing on Khan Yunis." The article did not comment on the picture or mention when it was captured. The photo was also used in two other Al Jazeera's articles from 2001, however neither of them referred directly to its origins.
The aforementioned blog post also indicated that an edited version of the photograph was shared online (emphasis ours).
Now it seems this photo did not serve the Palestinian propaganda machine as intended. So it was photoshoped. The mother was removed all together. And the soldier's rifle was rotated so it can point at the girls. But in the process it positioned the soldier in an unnatural way. No one can stand like that and maintain balance, especially with a rifle in the hand and weight on the back. Maybe an acrobat can, but with an effort.
In fact, while investigating on the origins of the in-question image, we found a similar photograph that has also been circulated online:
When we compared the two images, it became evident that the original image was edited to cut out the woman and change the position of the soldier so that his gun would be pointing at the children.
(X users @Heteromecheng and @manuelzr)
In sum, the viral image, which has been shared hundreds of times since at least 2001, remains shrouded in mystery.
Despite its widespread distribution, we have not found a source that definitively indicates the origin, the photographer, or the precise context of the photograph, which allegedly depicts an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian family.
Moreover, a second version of this image exists online with a significant alteration, adding another layer of complexity to its interpretation. Our research has yet to uncover concrete evidence to either debunk the authenticity of the photograph or to confirm the exact circumstances of its capture. We will update the article when/if new information comes to light on the origins of the in-question image.