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Posts falsely suggest Israel claimed to rescue same hostage twice

Posts falsely suggest Israel claimed to rescue same hostage twice - Featured image

Author(s): Gwen Roley / Juliette MANSOUR / AFP Canada / AFP France

Louis Har was taken hostage in Hamas’s deadly October 7, 2023 attack on Israel and reunited with his family February 12, 2024 after being airlifted from Gaza. Screenshots of news articles covering his rescue — dated months apart — circulated in social media posts questioning why Israel claimed to rescue the same man twice, but internet archives show the original article on Har’s capture was updated by The Times of Israel after his release.

“How many times did Israel save the same hostage?” asks the text of February 12, 2024 post on X, formerly Twitter, with more than 19,000 likes.

The user attached several screenshots to the post displaying headlines from The Times of Israel newspaper. The images show titles that announce the rescue of Argentinian-Israeli hostage Har, 70, from Gaza, but one of the articles is from February 12, while the other displays a publication date of December 19, 2023.

Screenshot of an X post, taken February 16, 2024

Users across X propagated the claim that the headlines showed Har had been rescued two times, with one saying: “Israel telling more lies!”

Posts with the claims were also published in French and appeared on Facebook and TikTok.

Screenshot of an X post, taken February 16, 2024
Screenshot of an X post, taken February 16, 2024

Har was one of at least 250 people taken hostage on October 7, when the Palestinian militant group Hamas raided southern Israel after breaking through its border with the Gaza Strip. The attack killed about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel responded by vowing to destroy Hamas and began a relentless bombardment and subsequent ground invasion of Gaza which has flattened much of the Palestinian territory and killed more than 28,700 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Since the start of the war, misinformation has been rampant, particularly on X, where users can profit off of posts that receive high engagement.

Prisoner exchanges in November led to the release of dozens of hostages from Gaza but at least 130 people are estimated to be still held in the territory. Israel says 30 of those still in Gaza are presumed dead.

On February 11, 2024, the Israeli military said Har and another Argentinian-Israeli, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, had been freed from the territory during an overnight operation in the southern city of Rafah.

An Israeli man writes “rescued” on a poster bearing the image of rescued Israeli-Argentinian hostage Louis Har on a wall outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on February 12, 2024 – Oren ZIV / AFP

While internet users implied The Times of Israel headlines proved Har’s release could have been a ruse, captures of the December 19, 2023 article using the online archiving tool the Wayback Machine, show that the title was updated in February 2024 with information about the rescue.

The first archived version of the December 2023 article was saved the same day it was published and reveals that at that time the headline was: “Taken captive: Argentine-born Louis Har and Fernando Marman.” There is no mention of Har’s release in that version.

Screenshot taken February 13, 2024 of the Times of Israel article as captured by the Wayback Machine,
Screenshot taken February 13, 2024 of the Times of Israel article as captured by Wayback Machine on December 19, 2024

A comparison of the archives of the page from February 12, 2024 and an earlier version on January 8 indicates the article was updated after the overnight military operation to include the mention that the two hostages had been released.

Screenshot of the “Changes” tool on the Wayback Machine, taken February 13, 2024

In archive captures taken after the news of the hostages’ rescue and the live version of the article, there is an update noted from 8:56 pm on February 12 and an italicized sentence before the body of the text which reads, “Norberto Louis Har was rescued from captivity in Rafah in a daring military operation on February 12, 2024.”

Screenshot of a Times of Israel article, taken February 13, 2024

The Times of Israel also published a new, separate article on February 12 which covered the story of the release of the two hostages with the headline: “On rescued hostages Fernando Marman and Louis Har” (archived here).

Har’s son-in-law recently appealed for a broader deal between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of the rest of the hostages held in Gaza. The Israeli military is continuing ground operations searching for Hamas fighters in Rafah where around 1.4 million Gazans have taken refuge, raising concerns about civilian safety.

Read more of AFP’s reporting on misinformation related to the Israel-Hamas war here.

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Originally published here.
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