Abrar Ifaz

Research Officer, Dismislab
The very same image claimed to be of Gaza after Syria, Lebanon

The very same image claimed to be of Gaza after Syria, Lebanon

Abrar Ifaz

Research Officer, Dismislab

A hand sticks out from the rubble, with a small seedling sprouting between the fingers, its two leaves spreading out. It has been claimed that the photo is from Gaza, Palestine. Verification shows that the picture is at least eight years old. This same image has circulated before, falsely labeled as depicting a ‘Syrian martyr’ or ‘wheat of the port growing on the bodies of the martyrs.’ There have even been claims from Afghanistan suggesting it might depict their martyrs. Some have sought to find miracles in it. But multiple fact-checks have debunked these claims as lacking any credible evidence, including a recent verification.

Bangladeshi Netizens claim

“When you look at this picture of Gaza City in Palestine, you can see a hand protruding from the rubble, with a tree growing out from its midst. But upon closer reflection, the narrative behind this image becomes apparent. In the hand rests a date, perhaps plucked with the intention to eat, yet left untouched. It takes roughly three months for a date seed to sprout and grow into a seedling. The transformation from seed to seedling within this timeframe is remarkable in itself. What truly captivates attention, however, is the hand itself. The fingers are distinctly visible, with skin resembling that of any living human. One would expect the hand and its fingers to decay over time, yet they remain intact and seemingly fresh. Who can explain such preservation even after death?” The picture accompanied by this caption has been circulating on Facebook for the past few days (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Since 2015, the photograph has been circulating on various social media platforms, following some major events. Recently, Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi, the head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Nasser Hospital in the Khan Younis area of Palestine, shared this image on his Instagram account. He described it as, “The picture thats showing is the palm of a hand holding a date, slightly visible from under the rubble, and the date seed has sprouted and produced strikingly long leaves. *The miracle* in this picture is more impressive than the germination process – to indicate the length of time the corpse remained under the rubble (three months at a minimum and above).” Another Palestinian doctor, Mohanad, reposted the same image on Instagram. While their posts did not explicitly claim the photo was from Gaza, many assumed it was. This assumption may stem from Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi’s statement, where he wrote, “This is an indication and a sign from God’s signs that this corpse is It is the body of a martyr, God willing.”

Francesca Recchia, a writer and researcher, wrote in an article published on her website, “One for the most shattering images I have seen in these past 28 weeks – I believe it will stay with me forever – is that of a date seed that is sprouting between the fingers of a person who is buried under the rubbles. It is both a horror and a miracle, a devastating metaphor that needs no explanation. It is a glimmer and an omen of the indomitable strength of resistance and solidarity.” She also said that she got the photo from the post of Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi.

Misinformation has been seen spreading about this photo on social media YouTube as well.

Through Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, then Gaza

The earliest source of the image that Dismislab has come across is a 2015 post from an X account. The post, shared on social media X (formerly Twitter) on December 24 of that year, featured the caption: “One day this hand will testify against those Muslims who did not speak out against Assad’s genocide,” accompanied by the words “Syrian Martyrs” overlaid on the picture. This suggests that the poster initially claimed the image to be Syrian. Subsequently, over the next two years, in 2016 and 2017 (1, 2, 3), several posts in local languages originating from war-torn Afghanistan also claimed the image as depicting a martyr.

Three years later, in 2020, following the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut, the photo resurfaced and was falsely attributed to Lebanon. However, fact-check reports by Lebanese-based media outlet An Nahar and French-based media agency AFP Arabic debunked this claim, affirming that the photo was not taken in Beirut.

According to a report by AFP Arabic, the image was shared on social media with the caption: “The picture shows a hand buried under a pile of rubble, which appears to be holding a green plant. Accompanying the photo, the caption follows: “Wheat from the warehouses of the port growing on the bodies of the buried martyrs under the rubble… A poignant image of pain and hope… So that the earth may blossom with the ears of peace… And seasons of goodness may yield upon Lebanon.” 

The original source of the photo could not be located, and AFP’s fact-check report indicated that it was not possible to confirm whether the photo was a real image or created by someone.

More recently, as the photo began to gain traction once again, AFP Arabic published another fact-check report on March 14. In this updated report, AFP stated that the photo, circulating as a depiction of Gaza, is old, and they remain uncertain about its authenticity and source.

Despite the inability to verify the image’s source, it is evident that it is not a recent image from Gaza.

The ongoing Israeli occupation in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of more than 32,000 Palestinians, including over 13,000 children. South Africa has called for justice, accusing Israel of genocide in the International Court of Justice.