An image that Israel says is of a baby killed during the Hamas attacks is being promoted onto people’s social media feeds as a paid-for advertisement.
The post, seen by Newsweek, is from the State of Israel’s official account on X, formerly Twitter, which has more than 1.3 million followers. The account is managed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, it says.
The image, which Newsweek has not been able to verify, purportedly shows an infant victim of the incursion by Hamas, the militant group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Hamas led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in history on October 7. Israel declared it was at war with Hamas and launched its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza. As of Friday, at least 1,300 people in Israel had been killed, according to the Associated Press, citing the Israeli military. At least 1,500 people were killed in Gaza, the AP reported, citing authorities there.
The description accompanying the photo, which appeared on users’ X feeds from the Israel account, states: “This is the most difficult image we’ve ever posted. As we are writing this we are shaking. We went back and forth about posting this, but we need each and every one of you to know. This happened.”
The photo, which readers may find upsetting, shows an image of a baby lying in blood in what appears to be a hospital setting, with its face blurred.
The word “Ad” appears in the top right-hand corner of the post, suggesting that it was paid for by the Israel account to appear in social media users’ timelines, though Newsweek has not been able to confirm this. Newsweek has contacted X and the Israeli government for comment via email. This article will be updated if either responds.
A number of X users expressed their outrage after seeing the image appear in their feeds.
Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura, an author and genocide researcher, wrote: “It’s utterly weird that Israel is literally running ads with horrific photos of babies all throughout twitter and other media too. That’s not a thing any other govt has ever done…Nobody else think it’s weird?”
Ben Smoke, a commissioning editor at Huck magazine, wrote: “State of Israel’s Twitter account put out a sponsored ad with the image of a murdered baby in it as it prepares to reduce Gaza, + hundreds of thousands of babies and children within it, to dust. Utilising [an] image of a dead child to manufacture consent to murder more is horrific.”
X user Iain Alexander wrote: “It is certainly ~striking~ for a few reasons that I have just been served—uncensored, save for the original blurring of the face—the official Israel state account’s tweet sharing the photo of a murdered baby, as an ad, in the middle of replies to an entirely unrelated tweet.”
However, other users said that it was important for social media users to see the image, and that promoting it as an advertisement would be one way to do so. They said that it would also address what they described as “conspiracy theories” around the events of October 7.
The image of the baby’s body was also shared by the State of Israel account in a regular post on October 12. The image appeared alongside two other photos showing what it claimed were bodies of babies who had been burned beyond recognition in Hamas attacks.
“Those who deny these events are supporting the barbaric animals who are responsible for them,” the post said. “Babies. Toddlers. Infants.”
According to X’s “Twitter Ads” section of its website, promoted posts are added to the timelines of those seen as a relevant audience.
“When you use Twitter to follow, Tweet, search, view, or interact with Tweets or Twitter accounts, we may use these actions to customize Twitter Ads for you,” the page reads. “For example, if you search for a specific term, we may show you promoted content related to that topic.”
The advertisement appeared as unconfirmed reports that Hamas militants beheaded around 40 Israeli babies amid the violence spread across the world.
On Wednesday, the White House backtracked on remarks made by President Joe Biden, who had said, “I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children,” in remarks to Jewish community leaders.
A White House spokesperson later told The Washington Post and other news outlets that Biden and U.S. officials had not seen pictures of beheaded children, but that he was merely referencing the claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel Defense Force spokesperson Major Doron Spielman said he had not been able to verify that Hamas militants had beheaded the children.
“That specific report and that number I can’t confirm,” he told NBC News.