A viral video circulating on Facebook depicts the brutal torture and killing of prisoners. While it is currently being shared in the context of the Gaza war, it actually originated a decade earlier in Syria.
Photo: Illustration, Raskrinkavanje.ba
Readers reported to us a post on Facebook from December 25, 2023, featuring a disturbing video (archived) of several people brutally torturing and killing two prisoners. The victims, facing a wall, are initially stabbed with knives in their backs and sides, followed by being pelted with what appear to be concrete blocks.
The nearly three-minute-long video carries the caption:
THIS IS SUPPORTED BY DEMOCRACY,
People with poor health should not watch.
The description itself does not specify the video’s content. However, the phrase ‘this is supported by democracy’ and the timing of the video’s release suggest an association with violence in Gaza, a connection echoed in numerous Facebook user comments on the post.
This post has been shared approximately 600 times on Facebook. Some users who shared it on their profiles included descriptions referencing Jews, further reinforcing the implied connection to the Gaza conflict (1, 2).
Presenting the Facts
Contrary to the implications made in these shares, the video in question is not related to the Gaza conflict. It has been accessible online since 2013. Older posts describe the video as depicting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad executing prisoners. Global media and fact-checking organizations, including DW, India today, Boom, Misbar and Fact Crescendo, have previously reported on this video.
These platforms uncovered a longer version of this video, dated January 1, 2013 (archived), with a description indicating that Shabiha forces (pro-government militia) are ‘killing civilians with knives’. The section that recently became viral begins approximately at the 2:13 mark of this extended footage.
On January 2, 2013, Reuters reported on this video. Although the video is no longer available in their article, several details align, indicating it’s the same footage. According to Reuters, the video was originally posted on YouTube by the media office of the First Rebel Brigade, who claimed it was captured from a member of the Shabih militia. However, Reuters noted that they could not verify the video’s origin or identify the individuals involved. Similarly, the Al Arabiya news portal covered the video in an article published on the same date, including segments from the footage, as did other Arabic media outlets. These reports state that the video was filmed in Syria.
Raskrinkavanje has previously encountered similar instances where photos from the Syrian war were falsely presented as current events related to the Gaza conflict. As of now, over 23,000 people have been killed and nearly 60,000 wounded in Gaza. Two-thirds of all buildings in the north and a quarter in the south of Gaza have been destroyed, with a quarter of the population facing “catastrophic hunger”. While it’s undeniable that fatalities occur daily in this region, the widely shared video is unrelated to the Gaza war and does not depict violence committed by Israelis.
Therefore, publications implying that the video of the killing of prisoners in Syria was made in Gaza are assessed as a manipulation of facts.
(Author: Marija Manojlović, Raskrinkavanje.ba)