Fact Check: Israel's Haifa Explosion NOT Caused By Yemen Strike Targeting Refinery -- Machine Breakdown At Nearby Factory Confirmed

Fact Check

  • by: Jamal Halaby
Fact Check: Israel's Haifa Explosion NOT Caused By Yemen Strike Targeting Refinery -- Machine Breakdown At Nearby Factory Confirmed No Attack

Did an explosion in Haifa on January 14, 2024, stem from a Yemeni missile targeting an Israeli refinery in response to a U.S. airstrike on Houthi rebel targets in Yemen? No, that's not true. According to the Israeli government and media reports, the explosion that generated a mushroom of black smoke over the Haifa Bay area was attributed to a machinery malfunction at a factory near the refinery.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on January 14, 2024, on TikTok with the headline (translated from Arabic to English by Lead Stories staff):

Breaking News: Yemen responds this way: an explosion in petrol refineries in Haifa now.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:


(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Jan 15 13:33:50 2024 UTC)

The 71-second video illustrates a breaking news report, featuring visuals of black smoke billowing into the sky from an industrial complex in Haifa Bay, accompanied by an Arabic newswoman narrating details of the explosion.

At the one-minute mark, a dialogue between two Arab men can be heard in the background. One asks (as translated), "What is this?" referring to the smoke rising into the sky. The response is, "A missile." Both then agree it was launched by "the Yemenis." An emoji of the Yemeni flag is displayed on one side of the frame, while the other side features a fist adorned with the Palestinian flag.

A Google News search (archived here) of "Haifa explosion" on January 15, 2024, revealed a story in the Times of Israel (archived here). The article, citing the Ministry of Environmental Protection, reported that a malfunction in a polyethylene machine at the Carmel Olefins factory in Haifa, owned by the Bazan Group, resulted in "an explosion and the release of black smoke clouds."

A search of the Ministry of Environmental Protection's English portal (archived here) yielded no relevant results, as English translation of Hebrew content has been limited since 2021 according to a note on the ministry's website.

Time News (archived here) quoted a statement by the Bazan Group saying the explosion was sparked by a "sudden increase in pressure in a protected high-pressure facility, which caused a safety disc to burst." The noise from this incident was "resembling the sound of an explosion," it said. This "is a statistical phenomenon that occurs from time to time, but the reasons are still being investigated," it said, insisting there "is not and was not any danger to the workers and the public." The statement could not be found on the Group's website, or social media pages (archived here and here) in English.

A joint military operation involving the United States and the United Kingdom, with assistance from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, executed airstrikes against multiple locations in Yemen utilized by Houthi rebels, according to a statement issued by U.S. President Joe Biden (archived here), posted on the White House's website as of January 11, 2024. Houthi rebels have been targeting U.S. warships and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, disrupting Israeli trade.

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  Jamal Halaby

Jamal Halaby is a fact-checker, who has been working with Lead Stories for nearly two years, helping bring the truth and factual information to the organization's global audience. With extensive background in investigative journalism and content writing and editing in Arabic and English, Jamal uses that experience to expose a burgeoning market of misinformation and disinformation. Previously, he worked as a writer for the Associated Press and several other reputable international news organizations. He has a passion for empirical analysis and discerning the veracity of the news.

Read more about or contact Jamal Halaby

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