Skip to main content

Gaza hospital strike: Is Israeli audio proof disinformation?

Gaza Baptist Hospital massacre: Why Israeli Hamas 'audio evidence' is probably disinformation
6 min read
20 October, 2023
Experts have expressed doubt after Israel released a recording allegedly featuring two Hamas operatives discussing Palestinian Islamic Jihad's potential responsibility for the al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital massacre.
A deadly explosion hit al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza this week [Belal Khaled/Anadolu/Getty]

An audio recording released by Israel in a bid to deflect responsibility for the massacre at Gaza's Baptist Hospital has been met with incredulity by experts, as Tel Aviv ramps up what experts say are typical propaganda and disinformation tactics used by the Israeli government in wartime.

Israel has sought to disprove its army struck al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital on Tuesday in an incident the besieged enclave's health ministry has said killed 471 people.

The military has claimed a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group was responsible for the blast in Gaza City, after initially blaming it on Hamas. Both Hamas and PIJ have denied the Israeli narrative, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government solely for the carnage.

The Israeli recording – allegedly of a phone call between two Hamas operatives in which PIJ's potential responsibility is discussed – has been met with disbelief.

"The dialect sounds dead foreign to Gaza itself," said Muhammad Shehada, communications chief at Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

"If you assume [a] benefit of [the] doubt, it could be a dialect from one of these affluent areas in Gaza – and that's even not possible – but it would not be Hamas members."

Shehada, who is from Gaza but is currently based in Europe, said Hamas members are highly religious and this is reflected in their tone of voice, adding that they have expressions that are particular to them absent from the audio exchange.

The Israeli army's Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said on social media platform X that the speakers in the recording were a "former Hamas activist" and a resident of the Gaza Strip.

A Gazan journalist told The New Arab the Israelis have a unit specialised in understanding varieties of Palestinian Arabic.

While he said there were no significant differences between the dialect of Gaza and the speech featured in the alleged intercepted call, he did not consider it a pure representation of the local language.

The journalist also said people in the enclave do not discuss internal security issues casually on the phone.

It is known that Israel heavily surveils the Gaza Strip's telecommunications.

Britain's Channel 4 News said in a report broadcast on Wednesday that Hamas considers the recording an "obvious fabrication".

The media outlet added: "Two independent Arab journalists told us the same thing because of the language, accent, dialect, syntax, and tone – none of which is, they say, credible."

'Most paranoid people on Earth'

Shehada cast doubt on the name used for PIJ in the recording. The group was referred to as "al-Jihad al-Islami", or Islamic Jihad, but Shehada said people in Gaza don't use that name in full. They instead call the group simply "al-Jihad" (the Jihad).

Shehada was also sceptical the operatives would talk so freely about PIJ, saying Hamas's members are the "most paranoid people on Earth".

"On any devices at all, even face-to-face, they would try to use code words, but even if we assume that they are hidden in the deepest of tunnels underground and they are fully comfortable, they wouldn't use this explicit language," he said.

"They'd refer to [PIJ] by the street name, like the everyday casual Gazan dialect, saying 'al-Sud', the black [ones], or saying 'Saraya'. They wouldn't be that dumb and explicit."

Black is the colour of PIJ's flag and military headbands. Saraya is short for "Saraya al-Quds" (the Jerusalem Brigades), the movement's armed wing.

While the Israeli army has not said the recording was taken in Gaza, the alleged Hamas operatives' discussion seems to assume knowledge of the area around the Baptist Hospital. Adraee, the Israeli military's Arabic spokesperson, described one of the speakers as a resident of the enclave.

During the call, one of the operatives asks for information on where the hospital is located, but the Gazan journalist who spoke with The New Arab said such a question would be unheard of because everyone is familiar with the name and location of the medical facility.

Recording vs Israel's translation

There are also differences between the English subtitles provided by Israel and the Arabic audio.

According to the Israeli translation, the first sentence of the recording is: "I'm telling you this is the first time that we see a missile like this falling, and so that's why we are saying it belongs to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."

But, in addition to a mention of "shrapnel" absent from the subtitles, the alleged Hamas operative actually said "they are saying the missiles belong to Islamic Jihad". It was not clear who "they" referred to.

Adraee published a version of the recording with Arabic subtitles close to a corrected English transcript The New Arab produced with the assistance of Shehada. The Arabic subtitles confirm the word used was "they".

Later in the conversation, both speakers use the word "al-Saha", translated as "the compound" in Israel's English subtitles. But Shehada said this actually refers to a place in Gaza City called Palestine Square.

The English subtitles also claim one of the operatives said a missile was shot from "the cemetery behind the hospital" and misfired. However, "perhaps they shot it" from the cemetery is more accurate to the recording.

The New Arab's corrected transcript of the audio recording released by Israel allegedly showing a phone conversation between two Hamas operatives.


The Israeli army has argued that PIJ launched the missile responsible for the blast from a cemetery near the Baptist Hospital.

Using the context in the audio recording, The New Arab's partner fact-checking platform Misbar identified what it said was the site in question. It debunked the possibility of that location being used for launching rockets in the time window of the massacre, relying on open source footage and intelligence.

Channel 4 News broadcast a satellite image of a different cemetery site, saying the missile's trajectory didn't fit with this location.

In a seeming self-contradiction, Israel also provided a map pointing out a launch site much farther from the hospital, and the BBC Verify fact-checking service said it hadn't managed to find a cemetery there. It would not be possible for a rocket to be launched from more than one place.


BBC Verify said it had contacted experts to ask if it was possible to establish the hospital explosion's cause, adding that the results were as yet inconclusive.

The fact-checking service said three experts maintained the available evidence "is not consistent with what you would expect from a typical Israeli air strike with a large munition".

But analyst Valeria Scuto said Israel is capable of performing other sorts of air strike with drones, in which Hellfire missiles may be employed. However, she said there is uncorroborated video that goes against this interpretation.

Disinformation specialist Marc Owen Jones said on X that whoever was responsible for the explosion at the Baptist Hospital, "from a comms perspective, the speed and [velocity] of a denial is essential when so much is at stake for the accused".

"Israel's approach is to deny, deny, deny," the associate professor at Qatar's Hamad Bin Khalifa University separately told The New Arab.

"It's a standard reflex regardless of the facts, which is why so many accounts initially spread false videos.

"Time is of the essence to defuse popular opposition developing. The key strategy as well as denial is shifting to blame against Hamas, but if you can get a firehouse of denial, you will muddy the waters, build the fog of war, and insert doubt in the narrative – doubt that maybe it wasn't Israel."

Note: This article was updated on 28 October 2023 to include information from a social media post made by the Israeli army's Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee on 18 October 2023.