On January 4, hours after the United States and 13 other countries called on Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels to immediately halt attacks on civilian vessels in the Red Sea, the Houthis launched and detonated a drone boat packed with explosives.
Houthi rebels have been striking and hijacking commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea to show their solidarity with Hamas and opposition to Israel since this past November.
As part of their propaganda tactics, the Houthis have been spreading false claims that they only attack ships connected with or transiting to Israel.
Social media users, apparently sympathetic to the Houthis’ cause, have been hyping the threat posed by the Yemeni group.
This includes repeatedly sharing recycled images of ship attacks from the past and falsely linking them to current events in the Red Sea.
One such spreader of fake content on X is a blue-checked user, ma000111 (Manooch Kargar). This anonymous account regularly posts anti-Israel disinformation. Its banner displays a painting of the Iranian flag, its bio says “EX IRGC” – short for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – and its profile picture shows a caricature of a man standing behind a tribune draped with an Israeli flag about to be hit by a hand sleaved in an Iranian flag.
On January 3, ma000111 posted a picture of a damaged ship at sea, billowing black smoke. The post read:
“Yemeni missiles bombed an israeli ally. British ship in the Red Sea, causing three explosions,”
That is false.
The photograph, credited to Agence France-Presse, was taken on October 6, 2002.
It shows the French supertanker Limburg off the coast of the southeastern Yemeni port of al-Mukalla, after a dinghy packed with explosives detonated next to it. The attack killed one crew member and injured 12.
The global jihadi organization al-Qaida claimed responsibility for that attack. The Houthi rebels are a Shiite Islamist political and military organization. Al-Qaida, which adheres to radical Sunni Islam, considers Shiite Islam heretical and aims at eliminating its disciples.
On December 30, several prominent spreaders of anti-Israel disinformation, including Maram Susli, or “Syrian Girl,” a blue-checked X user with more than 200k followers, shared another image of a burning ship she falsely attributed to a Houthi attack on an “Israeli-linked” ship.
Citing the Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese Al Mayadeen news channel as her source, Susli wrote:
“New Houthi attack on israeli linked ship, in the red sea. When are these people going to learn, the Pool is closed! Israel, America can't save you.”
Sulaiman Ahmed, another blue-checked X user and self-described investigative journalist who has shared other fakes about the Israeli-Hamas war, also shared that image with the caption:
“BREAKING: NEW YEMENI HOUTHI ATTACK ON ISRAELI LINKED SHIP IN THE RED SEA”
That image shows one of two tankers that were attacked in the Sea of Oman, off the coast of Iran, in June 2019.
The United States accused Iran of carrying out those attacks. Tehran denied the allegation.
Susli and Ahmed’s posts were subsequently tagged with Reader Context, noting the images are neither current nor show a Houthi attack.
As Polygraph.info previously showed, X, formerly Twitter, has repeatedly come under scrutiny for allegedly giving a platform to serial spreaders of fake and misleading content. As in the above cases, they routinely pass off old and/or otherwise unrelated footage as Israel-Hamas war footage.
Many of the false claims documented by Polygraph.info since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, 2023, originated on X.
Dozens of prominent X subscribers who regularly spread disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war have seen their user bases grow exponentially. Apparently, few of them face consequences for “broadcasting misleading media to their large follower networks,” an investigation released by ProPublica in December 2023 found.
An earlier investigation by NewsGuard, an information analysis company, found that blue-checked, “verified” X users had accounted for 74 percent of the platform’s most viral false or unsubstantiated claims during the first week of the Israel-Hamas war.
On December 18, the European Commission announced it was opening formal infringement proceedings against X under the Digital Services Act, or DSA, citing its concerns over “the dissemination of illegal content in the context of Hamas' terrorist attacks against Israel,” among others.