A caption to a viral post by verified X user WarMonitors reads: “The terror zionist regime is dropping internationally banned phosphorus munitions in the vicinity of Al Karama Towers in the Gaza Strip.”
With the Israeli crisis, WarMonitors – an account known for being profoundly antisemitic and on a disinformation analysts’ watchlist for pushing false information -- was able to dupe one of the world’s most influential personalities -- Elon Musk, the American billionaire and owner of X.
Following the Hamas attack, Musk recommended WarMonitors and one other account for timely and accurate information on the situation in Israel. Musk deleted that post three hours later, but while it was up, the post gained more than 11 million views, reposts and reactions, boosting WarMonitors’ following to nearly 750,000.
There is a key difference in WarMonitors’ narrative about Israel vs Hamas. The account frequently posts direct quotes and statements from Hamas, as well as the militant group’s propaganda flyers and videos. Yet, in contrast with its routine description of the Israeli government and officials as “terrorists” and “extremists,” WarMonitors never calls Hamas a terrorist group or condemns its actions.
WarMonitors deleted the post a day later after other X users disputed the video's authenticity.
It should also be noted that phosphorus munitions are not "internationally banned," as WarMonitors described them. However, the use of incendiary weapons, including phosphorus munitions, against civilians is prohibited under international law.
Editor's Note: On October 12, two rights watchdogs, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, accused Israel of using white phosphorus munitions in Gaza. Israeli's defense ministry denied the accusation.
On October 9, X’s @Safety team said in a statement that the company’s leadership had updated the platform’s policies due to the rapid increase of active users “in the conflict area” and more than 50 million daily posts globally related to the “terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas.”
The “crisis” required the “highest level of response,” and several hundred accounts have been removed for “attempting to manipulate trending topics,” @X said. It also reaffirmed a real-time rating and the use of Community Notes as a tool to combat “potential misinformation.”
While thousands of anonymous social media accounts promote narratives similar to those of WarMonitors, it stands out as a vivid example of how effective and deceptive social media can be when used skillfully for propaganda and disinformation. In fact, WarMonitors represents a new “after-Twitter” trend on X, in which anonymous accounts are verified by the platform, giving them the patina of credibility.
The amount of disinformation “aimed at controlling the narrative” regarding Hamas’ attack and Israel’s response is “unprecedented, particularly on X,” The Wire magazine reported on October 9.
Voice of America's Afghan service debunked false claim that Taliban reached out to Iran, Jordan and Iraq in an effort to joining Hamas and fight against Israel. This disinformation was spread on X by a fake "Taliban Public Relations" account.
Hamas’ three main state supporters also employed a strategy of trying to control the narrative. Iran maintained “non-involvement” while China and Russia claimed “neutrality.” Yet each of them pushed the narrative that best served their own interests and betrayed their sympathies.
Iran used the crisis to shame Muslim leaders and Gulf states it deemed sympathetic to Israel and the West. China focused on portraying the United States as the main villain in the story, while Russia targeted both the United States and Ukraine with disinformation designed to curb Western support for Ukraine.
On October 10, Iran's PressTV ran a piece headlined "Iran's Leader: Israel to receive ‘heavier slap’ for Gaza massacre."
It quoted the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as telling a joint graduation ceremony of armed forces cadets at the Imam Ali Army Officer University in Tehran earlier in the day:
"In this Oct. 7 incident, the usurping Zionist regime suffered an irreparable defeat both in terms of military and intelligence. Everyone admitted the defeat, but I emphasize irreparability. I say that this devastating earthquake has managed to destroy some of the main structures of the usurping regime's governance, which cannot be rebuilt so easily.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran helped plot the Hamas attack.
Still, some observers have suggested that Iran used the attack as a means of undermining Israel's rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. As Reuters reported on October 8, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al Jazeera television: "All the agreements of normalization that you (Arab states) signed with (Israel) will not end this conflict."
On October 9, Politico quoted Maj. Nir Dinar, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, as saying “[w]e have no evidence or proof” that Iran was behind the attack but adding: “We are 100% sure that the Iranians were not surprised. Just because you don’t have that evidence doesn’t necessarily mean Iran isn’t behind it.”
The United States and China have struck opposite chords in their response to Hamas’ surprise attack.
A senior-level U.S. official accused Hamas of committing “ISIS-level savagery” against Israeli citizens, referring to the Islamic State terrorist group, which became notorious for beheadings and other atrocities while attempting to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Since the attack, Chinese officials have repeatedly refused to condemn Hamas, which Beijing does not consider to be a terrorist group. Rather, they have condemned attacks against civilians on both sides of the conflict while calling for a de-escalation of hostilities.
That position is also supported by some members of the U.S. Congress.
Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, told Reuters that condemning Hamas could also put China at odds with its partners Iran and Russia, who have been accused to varying degrees of supporting Hamas.
“For China to denounce the attack also means China will be obligated to take actions if and when the culprit is named,” she said.
Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told VOA’s Nike Ching that China would “avoid pinning blame, but instead will simply call for ending hostilities,” as it did “in the case of Russia's invasion of Ukraine,” in a bid to maintain ties with both Israel and Palestinian authorities.
Beijing, which backs Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 borders, maintains that "establishing an independent State of Palestine” is the “fundamental way out of the conflict.”
But Yuval Waks, a senior official at the Israeli Embassy in Beijing, said it was not the time to call for a two-state solution, “when people are being murdered, slaughtered in the streets.”
During a visit to Beijing, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed disappointment that Beijing “showed no sympathy or support for the Israeli people during these troubled times.”
Chinese state media, in turn, accused the U.S. of fueling the conflict after the State Department said Washington “unequivocally supports Israel's right to defend itself” and is "surging" support to Israel, including air defense capabilities and munitions.
Two editorials in China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper seized on comments by Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to accuse “the U.S. and many Western countries” of “fanning the flames,” thereby turning the U.S. “into an enemy of world peace.”
In an appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Haley said: “Hamas did this, you know Iran’s behind it, finish them. They should have hell to pay for what they have just done.”
China has repeatedly accused the U.S. of “fueling the fire in Ukraine” by providing Kyiv with weapons to defend itself against Russia’s military aggression. Weeks before Russia’s February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine, Beijing struck a “no-limits” partnership with Moscow.
Russian officials and media have claimed that the Hamas militants who attacked Israel used weapons that the West had supplied to Ukraine.
Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency quoted Yan Gagin, adviser to the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, the Russian-controlled enclave in eastern Ukraine:
"Ironically, it was Israel, together with its colleagues from NATO, that recently transferred various types of weapons to Ukraine, which, among other things, were resold by Ukrainian servicemen and Ukrainian military officials to various terrorists around the world. In enormous quantities and uncontrolled. Now Israeli soldiers are being shot with their own weapons."
Gagin did not reveal the source of his information. Despite the lack of evidence, the Russian newspaper Izvestia published an article baselessly asserting that Hamas militants used American weapons that were intended for Ukraine.
Many high-ranking Russian politicians have also claimed that weapons transferred to Ukraine from the United States were illegally transferred to Hamas or other countries. Former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Telegram:
“Well, NATO friends, have you finished your game?
Weapons transferred to the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine are actively used in Israel. Further, like the weapons left behind by the fugitive Americans in Afghanistan, they will be used uncontrollably at all the most important points. After all, previously the corrupt authorities of Ukraine traded everything they received. They stole gas and oil, food, materials. They stole everything that was bad. It will only get worse. Expect rockets, tanks, rockets, and planes from Kyiv on the black market.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was necessary to wait for the conclusions of Israeli intelligence about the origins of the weapons used in the Hamas-Israel conflict. But he added:
“It is also obvious that hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons that the collective West sends to the territory of Ukraine do not completely settle there, that some of them are sold by arms barons all over the world, bringing mortal danger to different countries, to different regions of the world. This is also well understood by everyone.”
Despite the allegations that arms destined for Ukraine have been sold on the black market, all arms shipments received by Ukraine are tracked. Business Insider reported at the end of September that Ukraine had created an extensive database of the weapons it received, making it possible to trace the routes all such weapons take. It is true, however, that during the first months of the war, that system had not yet been established, and there were several cases of theft.
In a July 2022 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
“There are fears that any systems we provide to Ukraine will be used against us, as they could fall into the hands of Iran. And this is not a theoretical possibility. This is exactly what happened with the Western anti-tank weapons that we now find at our borders. So, we must be incredibly careful here.”
Netanyahu did not indicate how those anti-tank weapons ended up in the Middle East, but it is entirely possible that they were captured by Russian forces on the battlefield in Ukraine and then, given the military cooperation between Russia and Iran, handed over to Hamas.
Another possibility voiced by experts from Australia, Sweden and the U.S. is that Hamas has been using North Korean weapons provided by Iran.
Ukraine’s RBK-Ukraina website, citing the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate, reported on October 9 that Russia had transferred Western weapons captured during the fighting in Ukraine to Hamas, and was preparing a large-scale campaign to discredit Ukraine:
“According to the Russians’ plan, the next step should be fake accusations against the Ukrainian military of allegedly selling Western weapons to terrorists on a regular basis. It is noted that as part of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, these fakes should form the basis of several 'revelatory publications' and 'investigations' in Western media.”
In Chechnya, the Kremlin-installed governor Raman Kadyrov called on “all Muslim state leaders” to support Palestine and offered to send his military for a “peacekeeping mission.”
Commenting on Kadyrov’s statement, the Kremlin’s press secretary Peskov said Russia maintains “historical ties with the Palestinians” and has “relations with the state of Israel.”