On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, slaughtering civilians and livestreaming their murderous work.
Within hours a group of Israeli emergency workers known as South First Responders started posting raw photos and videos on their Telegram channel. It showed searing images, picked up globally that enraged Israel and stiffened the spine of its allies.
"Israel has the right to defend itself and its people — full stop. There's never justification for terrorist attacks," said President Biden.
South First Responders never claimed this, but Israeli troops who went into the blood-drenched kibbutzim reported that babies had been beheaded. It was a horrifying claim that was picked up and repeated.
Scripps News went to one of the kibbutzim to see for ourselves ,and interviewed anyone who had seen the bodies first hand. The evidence supported every imaginable atrocity — much of it from the cameras of dead Hamas fighters — but not that.
It was an early warning of the power and danger of the unsupported allegation — claim and counterclaim flying at the speed of light.
Hamas sent out propaganda videos showing terrorists with Israeli children giving them food and drink — videos that were met with revulsion.
Israel urged Gazans to flee south — its effort to show concern for civilian life contrasting with terrifying videos of IDF airstrikes.
In another hostage video, French Israeli Mia Shem pleaded to be returned home — an apparent effort to deter Israel from invading.
Then, with Israeli tanks and troops on the border and global concern building against the possibility of mass civilian suffering, the propaganda war blew up. The spark was the Oct. 17 explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital.
The Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry immediately accused Israel of launching an air strike against the hospital, claiming at least 500 had been killed. That claim was picked up by the media worldwide — especially in the Arab world.
The reaction was instantaneous. Violent street protests began in Jordan, Turkey, Tunisia and Baghdad.
But the story began to unravel within hours. Israel put out a forceful denial backed up by visual evidence that it was a rocket misfired by terrorists.
According to Scripps News' intelligence, Hamas checked the report, understood it was an Islamic Jihad rocket that had misfired, and decided to launch a global media campaign to hide what had really happened.
Open-source intelligence investigators, including the Scripps News visual investigations team, scrubbed the videos and photos — concluding that the evidence supported Israel's claim.
On board Air Force One for a summit in Israel, President Biden's national security team came to the same conclusion.
"Based on the information we have seen to date, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza," said President Biden.
But the damage was done. A summit in Amman, Jordan, with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority was scrubbed. And now the heaviest burden of getting the truth out has fallen on those who have already endured too much: Doctors and civilians trapped inside the hellhole of Gaza, and in Israel the survivors of the Oct. 7 massacre and the families of the men, women, children and babies that Hamas stole from their homes.
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