In a heart-wrenching turn of events, a Gaza hospital suffered a catastrophic Israeli airstrike, leading to a devastating loss of life. Here is what we know about this tragic incident:
The Hospital Explosion:
A massive explosion rocked the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the besieged Gaza Strip, resulting in a devastating loss of life. Palestinian officials have reported that at least 500 people were killed in this incident, marking the highest death toll in a single event during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The cause of the explosion has led to conflicting claims. The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza attributed the blast to an Israeli air raid, while Israel has asserted that it was the result of a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group. Notably, the PIJ has denied any involvement in the incident, further adding to the complexity of the situations.
Victims and Accusations:
The health ministry in Gaza reported that among the casualties, hundreds of people remained trapped under the rubble of the hospital. Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza, stated that the blast primarily affected displaced individuals.
Mai Alkaila, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, accused Israel of conducting “a massacre” in connection with the hospital strike. The hospital, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, was struck while it was overwhelmed with thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter during a relentless campaign of Israeli air attacks across much of Gaza.
World leaders and nations worldwide have strongly condemned the bombing of the hospital. Leaders from across the Middle East, in particular, have issued robust statements denouncing the incident. Protests have erupted throughout the Middle East, including Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian protests have clashed with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.
Jordan has canceled a planned summit in Amman with U.S. President Joe Biden and Arab leaders. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, stressed the need to work towards ending the “war and the massacres against Palestinians” before holding such a summit.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, initially scheduled to attend the summit, condemned Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza hospital. Saudi Arabia also issued a strong statement condemning the Israeli occupation forces for the bombing.
In contrast, Western leaders did not directly blame Israel for the strike. French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized that “nothing can justify a strike against a hospital.” President Biden expressed his “deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza.”
Israeli authorities contend that the hospital was hit by an errant rocket fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that operates within the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the analysis of IDF operational systems indicated that a barrage of rockets had been fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Al-Ahli hospital when it was hit. Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari explained that military drone footage showed “a kind of hit in the parking lot,” but he maintained that there was no direct hit on the hospital building.
Denial by Palestinian Islamic Jihad: The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has vehemently denied the Israeli allegations. In a statement, the group asserted that Israel was attempting to evade responsibility for the “brutal massacre” by fabricating lies and falsely blaming the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine. They labeled these accusations as “false and baseless.”
Some observers have raised questions about Israel’s version of events, citing instances where Israel has falsely attributed actions carried out by its own forces to Palestinian groups. This includes the case of our colleague Shireen Abu Akleh, where the initial blame was placed on fighters within Jenin camp, only for Israel to later acknowledge its responsibility.
The tragic strike on the Gaza hospital remains a deeply distressing event, underscoring the toll the ongoing conflict has taken on civilian lives and the urgent need for a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance in the region.