Reporting that Hamas killed at least 40 babies, including some that were allegedly beheaded, has stirred anger, confusion, and division online as the conflict between Israel and Palestine intensifies.
The report highlights the struggle with both accurate information and intentional misinformation on X as the platform has been beset by false claims in the past week.
X, which has long since been a trusted source for breaking news, has seen its utility decline over time as users have fled the platform in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover. Nowhere has that been more apparent in reporting on the Israel-Palestine war.
On Tuesday, a reporter with i24News said that she had been told, via an Israeli soldier, that 40 babies had been taken away on gurneys in Kfar Aza after being attacked by Hamas.
The Belarusian media outlet NEXTA, highlighting further reporting from i24News, stated just hours later that the purported 40 babies had all been beheaded.
“#Israel showed the world bodies of 40 beheaded Israeli babies found in Israeli kibbutzs after a massacre by #Hamas terrorists there,” NEXTA wrote.
That post went viral, despite it being a misrepresentation of what had been reported. In an attempt to slow the speed of the reporting, a visual forensic investigative reporter highlighted the differences between what had been said live on-air and what was being posted on X.
“How misinformation spreads. An i24News reporter states a claim live on air, via an Israeli commander, that 40 babies ‘have been taken out on gurneys’ at Kfar Azza,” they wrote. “Nexta, a Belarusian outlet with 1.1 million followers, then claims that they showed 40 ‘beheaded Israeli babies.'”
Yet other journalists were quick to point to i24News correspondent Nicole Zedek, who did state while on the ground in Kfar Az that she had heard from the Israeli military that some “babies” were found with “their heads cut off.”
The investigator deleted his tweet shortly after, stating: “I decided to delete a tweet about i24’s report citing Israeli military claims of decapitated babies found at the site, which has yet to be verified and is being widely mischaracterized online, because it was not clear.”
Not long after, an Israeli soldier appeared in an interview with i24News to state that Hamas had in fact cut the heads off of not only children but women as well.
Zedek, the i24News correspondent, also said in a post on X that the exact number of babies and children killed was unknown and that the 40 number was merely an estimate. Zedek’s remarks were used by some to cast doubt on the story.
A Los Angeles Times reporter also received pushback for suggesting that the claim could be part of a disinformation campaign by the Israeli military and urged for the claim to be reported out before being shared.
But as the dust settled, more accounts began to come in.
French journalist Margot Haddad said in a post on X that she had received “100% confirmation” from multiple sources, some of which that provided her with imagery.
“Infants and children under 2 years old were beheaded by Hamas in the Kibbutz of Kfar Aza,” a translation of Haddad’s post reads. “It is a horror, a massacre. For those asking for the source. They are multiple: Israeli army, internal intelligence service, and atrocious images which reached me and which I was able to cross-check.”
“But the best source remains this: courageous journalists from the foreign press who were able to see / agreed to see with their own eyes the bodies in Kfar Aza,” Haddad added.
Many also pushed back on the entire debate itself, noting that whether some or all of the babies had been beheaded was simply callous. Based on everything we now know, including reports from journalists, it does appear that the beheading of small children occurred at the Kibbutz and that dozens were killed.
The incident highlights the heated political divide over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has only been exacerbated by the torrent of confirmed misinformation proliferating on X.