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18 Oct, 2023 08:58

Gaza hospital bombing kills hundreds, sparks riots: What we know so far

Muslim nations blame the attack on Israel, which claims the building was hit by a misfired Palestinian rocket
Gaza hospital bombing kills hundreds, sparks riots: What we know so far

An apparent missile strike on a hospital in Gaza has killed hundreds of civilians, including doctors, patients and people taking shelter, amid deadly hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian militant movement Hamas. Both sides have blamed each other for the incident.

The news has sparked riots in many Muslim nations, inflaming an already precarious situation in the region.

The strike

Al Ahli Arab Hospital is one of the oldest in Gaza, operating since the early 1880s. Initially it was a Christian medical mission and is known by many locals as the Baptist Hospital. It had been functioning as a free community clinic run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem of the Middle-Eastern branch of the Anglican Church.

On Tuesday night, the facility was destroyed by an explosion. The diocese condemned the “atrocious attack,” calling it a “crime against humanity” and evidence that “Gaza remains bereft of safe havens.”

Officials in Gaza put the preliminary death toll at over 500. It was the deadliest single incident in the Palestinian enclave since hostilities with Israel erupted earlier this month.

Trading accusations

The hospital has declined to blame the tragedy on either side in the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Neranyahu has claimed that “a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity” to the building at the time it was hit. He cited military intelligence as indicating that Islamic Jihad, one of the militant groups operating in Gaza, was behind the purported launch.

A spokesman for the group has called the Israeli claim “completely incorrect” and accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of “trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians.”

Israeli officials have said they will release intercepted communications from Gaza militants confirming their analysis.

Outrage

Countries and international organizations have condemned the strike on Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Some, including Türkiye and Jordan, have directly blamed Israel.

Hours after the news broke, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry announced the scrapping of a planned four-way meeting between King Abdullah II, US President Joe Biden, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was supposed to take place in Amman on Wednesday.

The statement cited the hospital tragedy as one of the reasons, and concluded that there was no chance that the canceled summit could have stopped the war.

Riots

The mass-fatality incident in Gaza has triggered riots in several Muslim-majority nations. In the Jordanian capital, thousands of protesters tried to storm the Israeli embassy, but were pushed back by police.

Similar scenes unfolded in Beirut, Lebanon, as angry crowds targeted the US embassy and the office of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), according to local reports.

In Istanbul, Türkiye’s largest city, protesters launched fireworks at the Israeli consulate, while some tried to scale the security fence and set the compound on fire. Police intervened to disperse the rioters.

On Tuesday, the Israeli National Security Council urged citizens to leave Türkiye. The same advisory told Israelis to exercise caution in Morocco.

Iranians flocked to the embassies of France and the UK in Tehran to vent their outrage, but the demonstration reportedly passed peacefully.

Russian reaction

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the news from Gaza as “monstrous” in an interview on Wednesday morning.

“We unequivocally qualify this… as a crime, an act to dehumanize” Palestinians, she said.

Zakharova said Israel and the US should share detailed intelligence about the situation in Gaza at the time of the strike, if they want to convince others that the militants were responsible for the tragedy.

“There cannot and will not be implicit trust in their words,” she stressed.

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