Has Iran attacked Tel Aviv with missile strikes?

This video has been circulating widely on social media. We’ve also come across the video and claim on local messaging groups accompanied by the claim that “Iran has started to attack Israeli occupied Tel Aviv with heavy missiles.”  The video depicts several large explosions across a city – seemingly the result of missiles being dropped on buildings.Shortly before we observed this video and claim being spread, news articles about potential retaliation from Iran were making headlines on different news platforms such as The New York Times. This came after a strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus which killed two senior commanders. Similar reports have continued to emerge, making the claim video both alarming and plausible.  However, while the potential of missile strikes or other forms of attack has been floated, we found no evidence to corroborate the video and its claim that strikes were specifically carried out by Iran on Tel Aviv in the previous days.

Further, after searching for the origins of the video, we found that it first appeared around March 2024 – with the earliest copy we could find posted on X on March 24. It appears that the video was originally shared on a telegram channel before spreading rapidly on social media.The caption accompanying it identifies the city being struck as Sevastopol – a city in Crimea currently annexed by Russia. According to sources from March, Ukraine confirmed that they carried out the missile strikes and reported 2 Russian naval vessels along with other facilities being hit.Therefore, the video used on the claim about Iranian missile strikes on Tel Aviv has been mislabelled and used to intentionally misrepresent ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. No reports of attacks in Tel Aviv have otherwise been reported. We give this claim a rating of false.

The leveraging of current news and reports to spread dis/misinformation is both effective and dangerous. The plausibility of the claim (given that fears over Iranian retaliation are circulating) adds a layer of believability and shareability. Users might, at first glance, be more likely to take the claim as truth if they have pre-existing knowledge of current events. It is, therefore, vital to be vigilant about double-checking claims – even if they sound plausible or draw on familiar news topics.

Further, claims on messaging platforms such as Telegram channels (we noted one named “WW3INFO” spreading this claim widely) should also be viewed critically, as they have the capacity to reach huge audiences and often neglect to provide solid evidence for their claims.

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