Fact Check: Photo Supposedly Shows Tunnel Connecting Rafah in Gaza and Egypt. Here's What We Know

Noam Galai Getty Images
Noam Galai Getty Images


A photograph authentically showed a tunnel built by Hamas connecting Rafah in southern Gaza and Egypt.


Rating: Miscaptioned
Rating: Miscaptioned


The photograph, taken on Jan 7, 2024, showed a tunnel in northern Gaza. As of this writing, Snopes is not aware of the existence of authentic photos showing tunnels connecting southern Gaza with Egypt.


The protracted, often bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict exploded into a hot war on Oct. 7, 2023, when the militant Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel and Israel retaliated by bombarding the Gaza Strip. More than 20,000 people, the vast majority of them Palestinians, were reportedly killed during the first two months of the war alone. The violence is driven by mutual hostilities and territorial ambitions dating back more than a century. The internet has become an unofficial front in that war and is rife with misinformation, which Snopes is dedicated to countering with facts and context. You can help. Read the latest fact checks. Submit questionable claims. Become a Snopes Member to support our work. We welcome your participation and feedback.

In May 2024, several users on X shared a photograph, claiming that it showed a Hamas-made tunnel in southern Gaza that connected the city of Rafah to Egypt. A few claimed that this was proof of complicity between Hamas and Egypt:

This post had garnered 2.6 million views, 38,000 likes and 17,000 shares as of this writing. Other posts made the same claim.

A reply to one of the posts included a screen capture of an article date Jan. 25, 2024, on a website called fdd.org, which appeared to have published the same photograph. The reply claimed the original post was a lie and that no tunnel had been found in Rafah.

The website in question, for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — described by Influence Watch as an "activist and lobbying group which pushes for greater American involvement in international affairs" — published a post on Jan. 25 titled "Freed Israeli Hostage Said She Met Hamas Leader in Captivity." The photograph was indeed the same, poking a hole into the claim it was taken more recently in Rafah.

This led us to search Getty Images, the image bank website, for "Hamas tunnels." As we scrolled down, the same image appeared with the following caption:

Israeli Forces Highlight Alleged Hamas Infrastructure In Northern Gaza

NORTHERN GAZA, GAZA - JANUARY 07: A view inside a tunnel that Hamas reportedly used on October 7th to attack Israel through the Erez border crossing on January 07, 2024 in Northern Gaza. As the IDF have pressed into Gaza as part of their campaign to defeat Hamas, they have highlighted the militant group's extensive tunnel network as emblematic of the way the group embeds itself and its military activity in civilian areas. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

What Is Egypt's Role in the Israel-Hamas Conflict?

These claims arose days after Israel conducted a ground invasion of the city of Rafah on the Egyptian border, and after Egypt announced it would join the case against Israel brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. The plaintiffs accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians.

As South Africa sought an injunction to halt operations in Rafah in May 2024, Deputy Israeli State Attorney Gilad Noam spoke before the court and claimed that the Israel Defense Forces had found tunnels in that area of Gaza, including some that led to Egypt. "Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah, from which approximately 50 tunnels cross into Egypt," he said. "These tunnels are used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition."

He also suggested that these tunnels may be used to smuggle hostages and Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. Some critics have taken these allegations as proof that Egypt has been lax on Hamas, including Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz:

Israel has finally lifted the veil on one of the region's open secrets: that the Egyptians, while cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in their midst, have been turning a blind eye and likely making a handsome profit off gun-running to Hamas, the Brotherhood's Palestinian affiliate. This disclosure comes not a moment too soon. There are potentially dozens of hostages in Rafah — Americans among them, perhaps — who now face the prospect of being transported into the Egyptian Sinai, never to be seen again. The United States must use its diplomatic and military aid to Cairo to stop Cairo's double game.

Still, no authentic photographs of the tunnels in Rafah had appeared as of this writing.


'A View inside a Tunnel That Hamas Reportedly Used on October 7th To...' Getty Images, 7 Jan. 2024, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/view-inside-a-tunnel-that-hamas-reportedly-used-on-october-news-photo/1914941256.

Al-Mughrabi, Nidal, et al. 'Israel Launches Strikes across Gaza as U.S. Envoy Meets Netanyahu'. Reuters, 20 May 2024. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-launches-strikes-across-gaza-us-envoy-visits-region-2024-05-19/.

Berman, Zachary. 'Freed Israeli Hostage Says She Met Hamas Leader in Captivity'. FDD, 25 Jan. 2024, https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2024/01/25/freed-israeli-hostage-says-she-met-hamas-leader-in-captivity/.

Bermudez, Krystal. 'Israel: 50 Rafah Tunnels to Egypt Unearthed'. FDD, 17 May 2024, https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2024/05/17/israel-50-rafah-tunnels-to-egypt-unearthed/.

'During Defense Speech at ICJ Hearing, Israel Announces IDF Discovered 50 Hamas Tunnels That "Cross into Egypt"'. All Israel News, May 2024, https://allisrael.com/during-defense-speech-at-icj-hearing-israel-announces-it-found-50-tunnels-which-cross-into-egypt.

'Egypt to Intervene in ICJ Case as Israel Tensions Rise'. Reuters, 12 May 2024. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/egypt-intervene-icj-case-israel-tensions-rise-2024-05-12/.

'Foundation For Defense of Democracies Action'. InfluenceWatch, https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/foundation-for-defense-of-democracies-action/. Accessed 20 May 2024.