A video went viral on Saturday purporting to show the Israeli Air Force bombing fleeing Gazans as they drove on a highway southward towards Egypt. It was shared by many pro-Hamas and supposedly “neutral” social media accounts as proof of Israeli war crimes. More sinisterly, it was used by propagandists to suggest that Palestinians shouldn’t heed the warnings to evacuate.
Here’s what the video looked like as it was being spread online.
The narrative being pushed here is that Israel told people to evacuate Gaza City but only did so as a means to bomb them out in the open. Is that what happened, though?
There’s a lot to be skeptical about here from the very first playthrough, and that’s before you get into any real video analysis, which we’ll get to. For example, the explosion appears to be mostly a fireball without much kinetic energy. It’s what you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie, and in real life, it’s what you would normally see when an accelerant like gasoline is used to create an explosion.
Guided bombs dropped from airplanes do not look like that when they explode because that is not what high-explosives look like when they detonate. Where is the shockwave? And why were none of the other vehicles seemingly affected? Why did the van not collapse in on itself, if it was hit from the exterior? All of these missing elements point to a very localized, relatively weak explosion.
That’s not to say it wasn’t felt by the people in the van (who are no doubt dead), but there is no reason to believe this was a bomb or air-to-ground missile released from an Israeli fighter-bomber based on what’s immediately present in the video.
Which brings me to the actual forensic analysis of the video. The original is 30 frames per second, which would be more than enough to be able to visually see a projectile flying in and hitting the van. Expectedly, when the video is slowed down frame-by-frame, no projectile is seen.
There’s more, though. You can actually see what looks like a gas canister flying out of the side of the van as it explodes.
Further, the white van moves toward the center of the road just as it explodes, which would be consistent with someone trying to maximize the effects of the explosion. Lastly, and perhaps as telling as anything else, is the fact that this was all being filmed, with the van perfectly in frame before detonation.
It’s all just too perfect, though it’s decidedly less so when you start tearing into the video and thinking critically. Even the idea that this was an IED should draw skepticism given that the van did not appear to be under any upward force. Rather, it appears that the explosion was localized inside the vehicle first and then moved outward. That would be consistent with a suicide bomber helping create propaganda to keep Gaza civilians from fleeing. What is fairly certain is that there is essentially no evidence, and much to the contrary, to support the idea that this was a bomb dropped from an IAF jet.