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17 Oct, 2023 22:23

Israelis and Palestinians trade blame for deadly hospital strike

Both sides have denied culpability for the deaths of hundreds at Gaza’s oldest hospital
Israelis and Palestinians trade blame for deadly hospital strike

Israel has denied striking the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday, alleging that a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) misfire was to blame. PIJ has accused Israel of trying to cover up their “massacre” while Hamas has argued that the US is ultimately responsible.

More than 600 people have been confirmed killed and 900 more wounded at the facility, with the death toll expected to rise. In addition to patients, the building was sheltering many Palestinian civilians seeking refuge from Israeli air raids.

Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said that “an enemy rocket barrage was carried out towards Israel, which passed through the vicinity of the hospital when it was hit.”

“According to intelligence information from several sources we have, the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is responsible for the failed shooting that hit the hospital,” Hagari added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reposted the IDF claim.

“The entire world should know: It was barbaric terrorists in Gaza that attacked the hospital in Gaza, and not the IDF. Those who brutally murdered our children also murder their own children,” Netanyahu added later.

A spokesman for PIJ responded by calling the Israeli claims “completely incorrect” and accusing the IDF of “trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians.”

One Palestinian doctor in Gaza described the attack to Al Jazeera as a “massacre,” while a Red Crescent representative in the West Bank called it a “genocide” and “a war crime.” 

Israel declared war on Hamas after the October 7 incursion by the militant group that claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Israelis. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told reporters on Tuesday evening that the hospital attack “confirms the enemy’s brutality and the extent of his feeling of defeat,” dubbing it “a new turning point” in the conflict.

Haniyeh also argued that “the US holds the responsibility for the hospital attack because of the cover it gives to the Israeli aggression.”

Egypt, Qatar and Türkiye condemned the hospital strike and blamed Israel; the World Health Organization did not name a culprit but demanded that Israel rescind its “evacuation” order for Gaza. Russia and the UAE have called for an emergency UN Security Council session to address the incident.

The Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was founded by the Church of England in 1882, and is currently run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. It is also known as the Baptist Hospital, because it was managed by the US-based Southern Baptist Church between 1954 and 1982.