The Gaza Health Ministry says an Israeli airstrike hit a hospital packed with wounded and other Palestinians seeking shelter, killing hundreds, The Associated Press is reporting. “If confirmed, the attack would be by far the deadliest Israeli airstrike in five wars fought since 2008,” AP reported. We cannot confirm the source of the explosion at this time.
“Photos from al-Ahli Hospital showed fire engulfing the hospital halls, shattered glass and body parts scattered across the area,” according to the AP. “The ministry said at least 500 people had been killed.”
Several hospitals in Gaza City have become refuges for hundreds of people, hoping they would be spared bombardment after Israel ordered all residents of the city and surrounding areas to evacuate to the southern Gaza Strip.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said there were still no details on the hospital deaths: “We will get the details and update the public. I don’t know to say whether it was an Israeli air strike,” the AP reported.
“The horrific massacre carried out by the Zionist occupation in the Gaza City’s Al-Ahly Hospital which left hundreds of casualties, most of them displaced families, patients, children and women, is a crime of genocide that once again reveals the ugly face of this criminal enemy and its fascist and terrorist government,” Hamas said on its Telegram channel. “This also exposes the American and Western support for this criminal occupation.”
“I'm aware of the reports, but I don't have anything to offer further at this time,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has been in regular contact with [Israeli Defense] Minster Yoav Gallant, emphasizing that during this conflict, the law of war is being upheld.”
Hamas, she added, is putting civilians at risk by putting command and control centers at hospitals. When pressed by reporters, however, she could not offer specifics of which hospitals might have such Hamas command centers.
Yesterday, a former Israeli intelligence and special operations officer told us at least one of those hospitals, Dar al-Shifa, is considered to house Hamas political and military leadership under the medical facilities.
Health authorities in Gaza say at least 3,000 people have been killed in Israel's intense 11-day bombardment since Hamas militants rampaged into Israeli towns on Oct 6, killing more than 1,300 soldiers and civilians, according to Reuters.
This is a developing story and, once again, we cannot confirm what exploded or where the munition came from that caused it, if that was indeed the case. We will update it when there is more news to report about this incident.
Update: 3:57 PM EST -
The IDF now says it did not carry out an airstrike on the hospital.
"An analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit," the IDF said on its Telegram channel. "Intelligence from multiple sources we have in our hands indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza."
Update: 6:02 PM EST -
A spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also denied it is responsible for the Gaza hospital strike, according to The Independent.
For U.S. President Joe Biden, set to arrive in Israel tomorrow, there is already political fallout from this situation.
He was planning to travel to Jordan as well, but that portion of the trip has been postponed.
“After consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt,” a White House official told reporters via the White House press pool. “The President sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza, and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded. He looks forward to consulting in person with these leaders soon, and agreed to remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days.”
That news comes after Abbas, in protest of the hospital explosion, already canceled his participation in a meeting with Biden, Abdullah and Sisi set for Wednesday in Amman, Jordan to discuss the war, The Associated Press reported. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority runs parts of the West Bank.
Hamas on its Telegram channel called for Arabs and Muslims “now and immediately to take direct action and show anger everywhere, and to demonstrate in front of the embassies of the Zionist entity, and not wait for tomorrow; This is an urgent response to the heinous Zionist massacre against the ‘Baptist’ National Hospital in Gaza City.”
That response is already taking place, according to the AP.
“Hundreds of Palestinians flooded the streets of major West Bank cities including Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, where protesters hurled stones at Palestinian security forces who fired back with stun grenades,” according to the AP. “Hundreds of people joined protests that erupted in Beirut and Amman, where an angry crowd gathered outside the Israeli Embassy.”
6:47 PM EST -
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Tuesday blamed Israel for the hospital explosion.
"Striking a hospital where there are women, children, and innocent civilians is the latest example of Israel's attacks devoid of fundamental human values," Erdogan said in a post on Twitter.
"I call on all humanity to take action to stop Israel's unprecedented brutality in Gaza," he added.
The Israeli National Security Council (NSC) issued a warning against travel to Turkey and Morocco, citing fears that Israeli travelers will be targets of those angry at the ongoing Israel-Gaza war, The Times of Israel is reporting.
Video of protests at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul are emerging on social media.
Hezbollah too has called for protests, and hundreds of people have gathered around the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in response to the incident in Gaza.
The Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, is the scene of large-scale protests in the wake of this incident, AFP reported in the video below.
There is more video emerging on social media of those protests as well.
Biden, on his way to Israel, released a statement on the hospital explosion, saying his national security team is gathering information on what happened:
"I am outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted. Immediately upon hearing this news, I spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and have directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened. The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy."
Update: 10:00 PM EST—
The Iranian embassy in Syria posted a very ominous tweet, stating simply:
There are tons of claims, many of them dubious, that 'analyze' video coming to various conclusions. We are not going to post all them as they do not conclusively prove anything at this time. As for the IDF, it took to Twitter to directly attack Al Jazeera's post stating an Israeli aerial attack caused:
CNN is reporting that Israel has provided SIGINT to the US regarding the explosion at the hospital:
Some critical things to keep in mind with this terrible situation:
As we have stated many times over the years, munitions fail. The best munitions on the planet costing millions apiece fail. Rudimentary artillery rockets smuggled over great distances or built out of pipes and other available materials fail. This is a reality of warfare. Full stop.
In Gaza, munitions are stored where Israel has trouble spotting and striking them — in urban buildings and in tunnels. Mistakes and accidental ignitions happen. Munitions even stored improperly can explode. Maybe that is not the case here, but it is a reality of this conflict that must be factored at all times.
Also, Israel bombs targets that it considers as dual use — civilian structures it claims are housing militant capabilities or personnel. That is a fact.
Bombing a hospital, especially as POTUS is heading to your country for a high-profile show of support, would be incredibly damaging and illogical. That doesn't mean it is impossible and targeting mistakes and breakdowns in the chain of command happen even with the most capable militaries. So do terrible decisions. That's a fact.
Finally, there are many actors in this conflict all with agendas of their own, some of which are incredibly murky and they will do extreme things to see events unfold according to their needs. That's a fact.
Regardless, this is all another reminder of how brutal this never ending conflict is and how average people pay the price for others' decisions that are out of their immediate control.
But as of now, what exactly happened here and who is responsible is not clear. Evidence will likely change this in the future, especially considering how heavily surveilled that piece of land is, and especially now as the entire region sits on the brink.
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