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Israel and Hamas use heartbreaking baby pictures in battle for support

After the State of Israel’s official X, formerly Twitter, account began promoting an ad showing a dead baby, allegedly killed by Hamas militants, the Palestinian group released a video of its own—showing what appeared to be Hamas fighters fondly taking care of a young child and a baby.

Hamas, which the United States designates as a terrorist organization, led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in history on October 7. As of Friday, more than 1,300 people had been killed by Hamas in Israel, the Associated Press reported. At least 1,799 people had been killed in Gaza in Israeli operations, the AP said, citing the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “at war” and has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine to Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists as it prepares for a possible ground offensive into the territory, which has an estimated population of around 2.3 million.

The newly released Hamas propaganda video, which was sent to Newsweek by the group’s media wing, purported to show militants taking care of young Israeli children who had been abducted during the group’s surprise assault on Israel on October 7. Claims that Hamas militants had “beheaded” Israeli babies have featured prominently in the international discussion about the attack over the past several days—with President Joe Biden suggesting he’d seen such images before the White House later walked back the claim.

In the clip, militants have a young child and a baby in their care. They appear to be playing with the two children, rocking the baby in a carriage and holding the other child on their laps. In one shot, a militant holds both children, one in each arm, as he also has a large gun strapped to his body.

Earlier on Friday, Newsweek observed the State of Israel’s official account on X, which has more than 1.3 million followers and is managed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, promoting an ad of a photo purportedly showing an infant victim of the incursion by Hamas.

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.

The gruesome image promoted by Israel on social media and the apparent response by Hamas in the newly released video highlight the efforts by both sides to promote their narrative about the conflict. Many quickly dubbed the Palestinian group’s video “propaganda,” while critics of Israel have slammed the reports of infants being beheaded as an effort to further stigmatize Hamas in the eyes of an international audience.

Whether Hamas militants actually beheaded Israeli infants is unclear. The Hamas attack did leave many young children and hundreds of other civilians dead. Israel’s military response in Gaza has also resulted in significant civilian loss of life, including the deaths of numerous children.

“I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed, pictures of terrorists beheading children,” Biden said Wednesday. The president’s remark came after Israel news channel i24’s reporter Nicole Zedek said during a live broadcast that she had spoken to Israeli soldiers who had seen the corpses of babies that had been beheaded.

The White House later clarified that Biden’s comment was based on news reports, not images he’d actually viewed himself, according to The Washington Post. Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Major Doron Spielman told NBC News that the specific report could not be confirmed.

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