Brows raised as Israeli President Isaac Herzog claims Hamas fighters 'learning to make chemical weapons'
Doubt has quickly been cast on "wild" claims by Israeli President Isaac Herzog that fighters from Palestinian group Hamas had been carrying material from extremist group Al-Qaeda instructing them on how to build chemical weapons.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Herzog claimed that the offending material had been found on the body of a dead Hamas fighter in Kibbutz Be'eri, attacked by the Palestinian group in their surprise offensive on Israeli territory on 7 October.
"This is material which was found on the body of one of those sadistic villains... It's Al-Qaeda material. It's official Al-Qaeda material," Herzog said, holding up an image of what he claimed had come from the manual.
"We're dealing with ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Hamas, this is what we're dealing with," he said.
Holding up another image blurred by Sky News, Herzog said: "In this material, there were instructions on how to produce chemical weapons."
The Israeli army had made a similar claim about Hamas fighters possessing Al-Qaeda and Islamic State group material on 12 October, releasing an image of some of the contents that was indistinguishable from the one held up by Herzog during his Sky News interview.
Suspicions over Herzog's claim were immediately raised after the interview was aired.
Journalist Seamus Malekafzali claimed he had found the document Herzog had displayed in the interview.
He said the document was "not a chemical weapons manual" but from a biography of Ramzi Yousef who was convicted of co-perpetrating the World Trade Centre bombing of 1993.
"The document contains no instructions, only mentions of Yousef's early plans to use chemicals. It isn't classified or secret, it's a PDF," said Malekafzali.
Israel has repeatedly tried to draw parallels between Hamas and extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and IS, despite there being no proven connection.
In a post on 'X' published Wednesday, the official Israel account on the platform said Hamas was "no different from ISIS".
The Israel account and Israeli officials frequently use the hashtag #HamasisISIS to draw equivalence between the two groups.
Social media users commenting on Herzog's claims drew comparisons with the lies peddled by the US and its allies to justify their invasion of Iraq in 2003 - namely that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed "weapons of mass destruction".
No such material was found during the invasion and occupation of Iraq to justify that claim, despite the regime's historic use of chemical weapons.
Israeli military officials have dubbed Hamas' 7 October attack "Israel's 9/11", in reference to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US conducted by Al-Qaeda.