Photo of child in Halloween costume unrelated to Gaza conflict

Images documenting thousands of deaths in Israel and the Gaza Strip -- including women and children -- have spread across the internet since Hamas's bloody October 2023 attack triggered an all-out war. But posts claiming a photo shows a Gazan staging his death are false; the picture depicts a Thai boy in a Halloween costume in 2022.

"Have you ever seen a dead person texting? Apparently in Gaza everything is possible," says an October 26, 2023 Facebook post.

The post includes an image of a child wrapped in a white shroud sitting up and looking at a mobile phone. The picture spread across Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly known as Twitter -- including in Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic.

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken November 2, 2023</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken November 2, 2023

The posts circulated nearly three weeks after Hamas militants crossed into Israel from Gaza and killed 1,400 people -- mainly civilians, according to Israeli officials. Fighters associated with the Palestinian Islamist movement also took around 240 hostages.

Israel responded to the unprecedented October 7 attack with a relentless bombing campaign on Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 9,000 people -- mostly women and children -- have been killed. Entire neighborhoods have been raised, more than a million people displaced and supplies of food, water and electricity have been cut to the besieged territory.

More than 20,000 wounded people were trapped in Gaza as of November 2, according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

While social media has been used to document the war, it is also filled with misinformation -- including the latest claims of staged deaths.

A reverse image search indicates a Thai news page published the photo on Facebook in October 2022 (archived here). The caption says it shows two brothers dressed as ghosts during a Halloween celebration at a shopping center in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Other Thai news outlets featured the photos that year.

The name of the boys' mother, Surattana Sawadkit, appears in the upper left-hand corner of the images. She originally published the photos in an October 29, 2022 Facebook post (archived here).

She shared additional videos of the event on her page (archived here and here).


Sawadkit confirmed to AFP that the photos show her sons dressed for Halloween in October 2022. 

False claims of staged deaths or injuries are a common fixture of online misinformation. AFP has previously debunked such posts related to the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic.

More of AFP's reporting on misinformation about the war between Israel and Hamas is available here.