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 and video footage supposedly showing dozens of shirtless Palestinian men detained by Israeli soldiers in Gaza went viral in early December 2023. According to the Israeli army, the men were allegedly connected to the militant Palestinian group Hamas and possibly responsible for the group's Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel, while other people accused the Israeli military of wrongly arresting people and treating them inhumanely.
We investigated the authenticity, and backstories, of several pieces of such media, including a video allegedly depicting men crouched on pavement with their heads down, and a photographic series supposedly showing men in similar positions. Based on reporting by reputable news organizations, such as BBC and Reuters, those scenarios indeed occurred — that is, the video and some photos genuinely documented the arrests of Palestinian men in Gaza, with verifiable locations. Al Jazeera reported around 100 men had been detained by the Israeli military, as of this writing.
That said, Snopes could not independently confirm the exact circumstances under which the men in the viral photos and videos were detained, or their alleged connections to Hamas. (Hamas is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement that has held control of Gaza since 2007 and the United States has designated a "terrorist group.") When we presented the media to the Israeli army, a spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of each scenario.
However, the spokesperson shared a statement about the army's goal of detaining and questioning "individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activity," and that "individuals who are found not to be taking part in terrorist activities are released" and given back their clothes. (It was unknown if, or how many, men in the in-question video or photos were eventually released.) Separately, the military stated in media briefings that members of Hamas were voluntarily surrendering.
The statement from the Israeli military spokesperson to Snopes read:
As part of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] activity in the combat area, individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activity are being detained and questioned. Individuals who are found not to be taking part in terrorist activities are released. The individuals detained are treated in accordance with international law. It is often necessary for terror suspects to hand over their clothes such that their clothes can be searched and to ensure that they are not concealing explosive vests or other weaponry. Clothes are not immediately returned to the detainees, due to the suspicion they may conceal means that can be used for hostile purposes (such as knives). Detainees are given back their clothes when it’s possible to do so.
At least one detained individual was reportedly not affiliated with Hamas. The London-based, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said its chief bureau correspondent, Palestinian journalist Diaa Al-Kahlout, was among the men detained by the Israeli army. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was calling for his release, as of this writing.
What We Know About the Videos and Photos
Some people online accused the Israeli army of publicly distributing the visual media of shirtless, detained men. The military denied those allegations to Israeli media.
In the below-displayed video showing lines of men in their underwear on the ground, the camera appeared to be held by someone wearing a khaki coat. That lead to speculation by The Guardian that an Israeli soldier shot the footage. Seeking information to confirm or deny that claim, Snopes asked the Israeli army if one of its members recorded the video. A military spokesperson did not answer that question, except to say it was not an official video released by the military.
In other words, it was unknown who shot and distributed the in-question video, or when it was taken. The claim that an Israeli soldier recorded the footage was unsubstantiated.
In a statement to CNN, Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political office, acknowledged the footage, accusing Israel of "kidnapping, invasive searches and disrobing" what he said was “a group of displaced Palestinian civilians.” He called it a “reprehensible crime."
Footage documenting similar scenes circulated online, as well. The BBC and Reuters verified the authenticity of such videos, saying they indeed depicted detained men in Gaza during the 2023 war. The latter reported that an Israeli TV outlet aired the footage, describing the men as "captured Hamas fighters, stripped to their underwear with heads bowed sitting in a Gaza City street."
However, the BBC was unable to verify the authenticity of the below-displayed photo depicting men kneeling in a sandy area. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, an independent human rights network focused on European and Mediterranean regions, described the photograph as an alleged scene in which Israeli forces had "launched random and arbitrary arrest campaigns" against Palestinian men. We will update this report if, or when, we learn more we learn more about that photo, specifically.
As far as the scenes' locations, many social media users claimed the videos and photos were documented in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Euro-Med, BBC, and Reuters confirmed that assertion was accurate. Reuters also stated some video footage was recorded in Gaza City.
When contacted by Snopes, the Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment on the locations depicted in the visual media. The spokesperson said the military was “operating in the Hamas strongholds in Jabalia and Shejaiya, as part of the efforts to dismantle Hamas' military capabilities, and to rescue the hostages brutally kidnapped by the Hamas' terrorist organization.” (The city of Jabalia and the neighborhood of Shejaiya in Gaza City are both located in northern Gaza, just south of Beit Lahia.)
Criticism of the Arrests
Some Palestinians accused the Israeli army of erroneously arresting men with no connections to Hamas or the Oct. 7 attack and treating them inhumanely. Al Jazeera spoke to Palestinian boys and men who accused the military of detaining and torturing them, and then releasing them, without explanation.
In response to the accusations that they were targeting civilians with no Hamas connections, Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the BBC, the military was gathering people to find out "whose name and face fits with the photographs of people" who participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Euro-Med, which shared the photograph showing men seated in a sandy area surrounded by soldiers, claimed men had been taken from two shelters for displaced people located in schools in Belt Lahia. The schools are affiliated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), according to Euro-Med.
Speaking to the BBC, an unnamed Palestinian said he and his family members — including his father, who he said worked for UNRWA — were among the men temporarily detained. He said he was taken to a sandy place, stripped of his clothes and given a blanket at night. He said he was released after a few hours and returned to his home the following morning, though his father remained detained. (It was not known if he was one of the men depicted in any of the visual media mentioned above.)
Also speaking to the BBC, an Israeli army spokesperson said it was possible detainees included United Nations workers and suggested that title did not "automatically" mean they were not also Hamas members. (Juliette Touma, UNRWA director of communications, told the news outlet that the agency "has a scrutiny and screening process for all its staff" that it shares "with the host governments where we work.")
Hani Almadhoun, a Palestinian-American in Virginia who works with the UNRWA, posted on social media that he spotted his brother in the above-mentioned video. Almadhoun also said he recognized his 12-year-old nephew, as well as other family members, in an image in the photographic series showing men in military trucks.
In one post, he denied that his family had any connection to Hamas, writing, "They are civilians, uninvolved." We contacted Almadhoun over email, and he said, "My family were taken from their home not the UNRWA school," in reference to one of the two schools mentioned by Euro-Med. According to subsequent Facebook posts, he said his family members were eventually released by the Israeli army.
Looking at the videos and photos of arrests social media, Mohammed Lubbad, a Palestinian in Belgium, said on Instagram he recognized his brother among the men, as well as 10 other family members. He told BBC his family were all "innocent civilians with no military affiliation."
We will update this report when, or if, more information about the arrested individuals comes to light.