Palestinian girls run past a destroyed ambulance (file image)
Children are the victims of both the Middle East conflict and propaganda war online. Image by EPA PHOTO

Images show Gazan baby, not a doll

William Summers December 13, 2023

A video of a dead Palestinian baby is really just a doll.


False. Journalists at the scene confirmed the baby was real and a pathologist said the doll-like appearance is consistent with normal post-death processes.


A video of a Palestinian mother mourning her dead baby has been seized on by conspiracists who claim the woman is acting and the child in her arms is just a doll.

This is false. Journalists at the scene confirmed the baby was real. Media reports name the baby as five-month-old Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, who reportedly died during Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al-Balah, Gaza, on December 1.

A leading Australian pathologist told AAP FactCheck eye discolouration and pale skin were common after death and may explain the child’s doll-like features.

It is not the first time claims have been made that Palestinians are using dolls to exaggerate civilian deaths during the current conflict. AAP FactCheck previously debunked a similar claim about a four-year-old Palestinian boy killed on October 11.

The latest claim has been made in various social media posts including here, here, here and here.

This December 2 Instagram post (screenshot here), which is typical of the false claims made about the video, said the footage showed a Palestinian woman “clutching a plastic baby doll that she is attempting to pass off as her child during a staged Hamas propaganda video”.

A screenshot of one of the posts on Instagram.
 A screenshot of one of the posts on Instagram. 

The video of the dead baby was posted to Instagram by Palestinian videographer Omar Dirawi.

The on-screen caption of Dirawi’s video reads: “A mother bid farewell to her martyr child, who was no more than 5 months old…”.

The caption has been edited out of some social media posts that claim the baby is a doll.

Arabic fact-checking website Misbar reported Dirawi told the site he recorded the video on December 1 at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the Gaza Strip.

The incident was also recorded by Ali Jadallah, a Palestinian photojournalist whose Twitter profile says he works for Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

Jadallah has supplied images to global news agencies including Getty Images since at least 2014.

On December 2 (Australian time), Jadallah posted a photo of the dead child to Instagram along with the description: “Dead body of a 5-month-old Palestinian baby named Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, is brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital by his mother Asmahan Attia Al-Zahar and grandfather Attia Abu Amra after the Israeli airstrikes at the end of the humanitarian pause in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on December 1, 2023”.

Getty Images’ photo bank includes a series of 24 images of the dead baby, all attributed to Jadallah.

The additional images clearly show the baby to be real.

False accusations the baby is a doll appear to be based on the child’s appearance in Dirawi’s video and Jadallah’s Instagram post.

However, Linda Iles, a forensic pathologist at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, said the baby’s appearance was consistent with natural post-death processes.

“I’m not sure what people expect a dead infant to look like, but these images aren’t particularly unusual to me,” Dr Iles told AAP FactCheck.

Dr Iles said the process of lividity (blood settling with gravity) often made a dead infant’s face appear pale, particularly if blood loss had contributed to the death.

Discolouration of the eyes suggested ‘tache noir‘, a medical term that refers to browning of the eyes when eyelids are left open after death, Dr Iles said.

The imagery also included other signs of genuine death including dried secretions at the corner of the mouth, dry lips and wrinkled skin where the baby’s face was being touched, she said.

Misinformation about the video appears to have been fuelled by an article published by the Jerusalem Post on December 1, headlined: “Al Jazeera posts blurred doll, claims it to be a dead Palestinian baby”.

The text of the article claimed social media users “quickly shared footage of the ‘baby’ … revealing it to be only a doll”.

The article was later deleted from the Jerusalem Post website.

In a statement on X, the newspaper said: “Over the weekend, we shared an article based on faulty sourcing.

“The article in question did not meet our editorial standards and was thus removed. We regret this incident and remain committed to upholding the highest journalistic standards at all times.”

False claims about the video have also been debunked by other media outlets, including here, here and here.

The Verdict

The claim a dead Palestinian baby being mourned by his mother is really just a doll is false.

Journalists who captured the incident on camera have confirmed the baby was real.

An Australian pathologist told AAP FactCheck the baby’s appearance was consistent with common signs of infant death.

A Jerusalem Post article which helped fuel the false claims has since been retracted.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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