#OSINT verification of detained civilians in Gaza

A visual investigation verifies circumstances around an image taken allegedly of innocent Gaza prisoners. Is it real? Who shot it? When was it taken? How were the detained treated, and why were there civilians among them? It was used for a lot of disinformation.

10 min readDec 15, 2023

One image, a hundred questions, alongside a 1000 disinformation posts. When new material on Gaza dazzles even the most skilled #OSINT colleagues and aids disinformation to spread faster than light, it’s time to review the facts.

When it first appeared online, a photo, showing hundreds of detained Palestinians, triggered a storm of criticism. It was viewed more than a million times on X, so the analysis. Outspoken disinformation accounts were quick to compare it with a WW2 execution sites — old gray images of the horror of the old war next to this picture. It caused immediately a lot of distrust. Many users called it a fake.

This forensic verification effort, however, shows that the chance of it being one is extremely low. Although, there are still questions on context and details, it seems highly likely that the image is not “fake” and that it was taken probably between the 10th and the 12th of December 2023, in North Gaza, not far from two hospital sites, one of which was stormed and prisoners detained by the IDF on December 12. The other, employment place of a doctor who was spotted among the detained in the picture.

One pro-Palestinian account posted the image with the tagline: “extermination camp”. Shortly after it appeared, there was a cascade of disinformation and propaganda, including by Russian accounts such as RT Arab and others, who cited the image. They used it as a misleading meme.

Even among those with a bit more credibility, expressed doubts after #OSINT colleagues reposted the image, asking for verification help. Many said one was or another that the “…Foreground looks photoshopped but might just be the light”, as one wrote.

Photo posted that triggered a storm of criticism (high-resolution version here)

The light panel, held by the soldier, raised questions: “literally operating a photographic studio light panel”. It is difficult to dismiss that the light changes the coloring, and so, makes it look weird. However, the more interesting question is whether the prisoners of war need to be projected with light, in the first place. Are they being photographed? Thought, it is not clear that they are, there are a number of issued connected to that.

Tampered or photoshopped? The Image analysis with the tool image verification assistant finds no immediate concerns (although, I am not an expert using it). The fusion analysis should elevated values (red) for areas of concern.

If these are prisoners of war (POW) and they are being photographed, then, a breach of Geneva Conventions could be a cause for concern.

The convention rules how soldiers and civilians should be treated at times of war. It does not mention film or photos specifically. However, according to the International Red Cross, Article 13 would refer to prisoners of war, who must, at all times “be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity”. That may generally also concern the ban on taking photos of POWs.

Confirmed: Soldier with IDF uniform

Among the first appearances, the photo made, was on the media page of Channel 12 NEWS as well as on its Telegram channel (at 10:33pm on December 12).

The journalist Nir Debori/Nir Dvori at N12 reported it’s mass detention of prisoners. Sadly, he posed no evidence or bespoke details in his reporting. Dvori is a security and army correspondent, who is reportedly travelling alongside the IDF to experience the crack-down on Hamas first hand.

We reached out to Dvori on X to ask publicly whether he can confirm where the photo was taken and under what circumstances, and why he posted it on his media website. There was no response.

Source: On N12, Dvori last post from December 12.

Uniform clothing of alleged POWs

Aric Toler, previously at Bellingcat, now at the New York Times, noted that a lot of the alleged prisoners, do wear black shirts. At closer inspection, these are blue and black shirts and some are jackets. Some with a collar, some without.

Why the people in the foreground don't wear black remains uncertain. Similar blue overalls were spotted in old images by Getty. Black was also the shirt of a 10-year-old Palestinian boy detained in Hebron, in 2021. Detainees are usually stripped naked to avoid them carrying explosives. Their clothing is not being handed back immediately. Perhaps they received black clothing by the IDF.

Online media AA reported on December 11 that Israel forces detained 142 Palestinian women and children during their ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, citing numbers by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society and the Palestinian Authority Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. Human rights NGOs in Gaza reckon there might be 900 detainees.

Also, easily to be spotted, the two instances of people wearing Nike sweaters. One wears an orange blindfold or bandeau.


Prisoners are usually handcuffed. The image analysis points to the fact that some if not many were tied behind their backs. For the person on the very left, this seems blatantly obvious. Either he holds his hands behind his back, or he was tied, which his pose also supports.

In at least 12 instances, the image suggests people were handscuffed

Concerns were raised over how the detainees were treated in the past days, according to several pundits, including military correspondent at the Times of Israel Emanuel Fabian. Especially the way how prisoners were treated in the northern Gaza part Jabaliya raised criticism.

How many?

It's arguably difficult to be sure how many alleged prisoners were detained at this site. Judging alone from what we see in the image, there are at least 320 heads to be counted.

There are automated ways of doing such counting (sa. plugger, DotDotGoose, or Crowd People Counter). But that was too risky to get it wrong, as the resolution was so poor. The obvious approach was to divide the screen into several panels and start counting manually. The image also suggests there are at least 18 soldiers in the background, plus one in the foreground operating the panel lighting — in total 19.

At least 320 alleged POWs in the image

The image would have not gained so much attention, hasn't it been for the harsh allegations that among the detainees there was an innocent medical professional.

The first of such concerns about this image was raised by an account with the name of Mustafa A. In this post from December 13, at 5am, he explained that he thinks, a Doctor with the name of Khalid H. (خالد حمودة)is among the prisoners in the first row — it is the second person from left.

Whether the person is without a doubt Doctor Khalid H., is only 100% clear once he is found and makes his detention public. Meanwhile, there is a lot that speaks in favor of the allegation that a doctor was among the IDF prisoners. The resolution of the image is low, but it shows a man of the height, form and figure that matches pictures of Dr Khalid H.

The hair line, slightly crooked, matches images from Facebook. The man’s typical pose, a slightly inwards bend left foot, can also be witnesses in public pictures found on social media.

Facial verification: Khalid H. worked, according to his own details on Facebook at the Al Shifaa Medical Complex, at ‎General surgery and endoscopy specialist at Indonesian Hospital. He had relatives who also worked in medicine

It is therefore of little surprise that several people recognized him in the gone-viral photo. Mustafa A. also mentioned an image when the doctor received congratulations from colleagues for completing his surgery residence.

There is also a second source, Mohammad Jouda, who knows the doctor, and now lives in Germany. Jouda named Khaled H.’s Facebook account and wrote that “they arrested Khaled from inside a hospital (that) he was in, and then they stopped him like that in front of them to face their weakness”.

Khalid was Jouda’s “best friend”, he claims (Jouda is, however, not among Khaled Hamouda Facebook friends). Jouda also confirmed the tragic circumstances of the H. family, many who were killed only two weeks ago. Also Mustafa A. said that “he (Khaled Hamouda) recently lost almost all of his family, including his wife, daughter”.

When and Where was the image shot?

The image got geolocated on December 15, thanks to the help of the X user fdov21 (link). Since the location showed on old satellite imagery from 2022 three white roofs in the north of Gaza, it was at first hard to validate. However, once it was clear that the latest images showed no white roofing, it was clear.

There, open-source Sentinel 2 satellite images (from Sentinel Browser) came in handy. Images from December 1. and December 6th showed the white roofs on the ground. In images from December 10 and 11, the white roofs suddently disappeared from the yard.

Geolocation confirmation OSINT work
The location is in the north of the Gaza Strip. The detainees got either driven South. Ramy Abdu assumes that some were being brought north of the enclave, to Israeli territory.

Open-source satellite images for December 1. and December 6. 2023 still show the white roofing in the public high-resolution images from 2022 on Google Earth Pro. By December 11, the white spot was gone.

Gif shows how the white roofing disappeared

In addition, New York Times reporter Aric Toler posted Planet Satellite images from December 10th, showing the area again without the white panels. The mounds, visible in the photo, however, have not been dug yet. This ultmiately narrows down the time the image was shot to between the 10th and the 12th of December.


There is a Facebook post by another Hamouda family member, Mohammed Magdey Hamouda. He, who also hosts an image of Khaled in his photo library, wrote on December 5 that a bomb hit the family house, which is basically the “H. Medical Center”. It included several victims, including his uncles, cousin and children, other cousins. Dr. Khaled H. would also be among the victims. If that checks out, Khaled must have rounded up and detained after that.

Facebook posts claiming that many of relatives of Khaled H. were killed

It is still uncertain whether the detention had anything to do with the event that took place on 12th of December, when the IDF announced it had successfully stormed the Kamal Adwan Hospital and took prisoners out of the hospital. The hospital is not far from that in which Khaled H. used to work in. (location by IsraelPalestine Livemap, at 31º 32' 17.4'’ N 34º 30' 05.4'’ E).

Several Images and a video of the detainees of the incident on the 12th were also released. A line of prisoners is seen walking in mainly black outfits, escorted, down the street.

Images of the prisoners (link) — 70 Hamas operatives would have surrendered to Israeli troops in the area
Prisoners of war, near near the Kamal Adwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip

Other allegedly innocent people, not linked to Hamas, reportedly also among detainees

In the past days, there were a number of reports on unconfirmed reports, allegeging that friends, family, doctors, nurses or journalists are among detainees. They would have no links to the terror group Hamas. One video showed a journalist with the name Zia alkahLot, among the group of prisoners. The location where he was spotted was geolocated.

The account of Dr Eli David, a Researcher in the US, claimed on X that he spotted two members of staff of UNRWA and the UN among those detained, Both, Darwish Gharbawy and Ahmed Akram Lubad were among those that the human rights group EuroMed cited as civilians being detained. Gharbawy later told the Washington Post he almost fainted from dehydration when he was detained.


There is also Rami Abdo, an Economic Analyst and Assist. Prof of Law and Finance (who was also interviewed by Aljazeera in 2019 on a Gaza gas deal) Abdo is also chairman of the human rights group @EuroMedHR. He claims on X that “Israeli soldiers are stripping & arresting hundreds of civilians and have executed dozens in Jabalia Refugee Camp, while cutting off communication lines”.

In the below image (source), he and others would have identified “…a doctor (Khaled H), a nurse, two teachers, and a baker”, so he says. Abdo also commented on the prisoners' image directly, citing that civilians were among them.

“…In this picture published by Israel, we have identified a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, and a businessman.” but without evidence.

Based on testimony, Gaza human right NGO Euro-Med assumes that Israel will hold most of the detainees at the Zikim military base north of the enclave. So far, this could not be independently verified.




Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice