The damage points to a defective rocket, not an air strike.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Your browser does not support this video. Footage shows the moment of the explosion On October 17, at around 7 pm, an explosion occurred at Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The hospital is run by the Anglican Church, and a church official told the BBC that there were about 600 staff and patients on the premises, and 1,000 civilians sheltering in the grounds. Within hours the Gaza Health Ministry, which oversees Hamas, said about 500 civilians had been killed (although various Western intelligence officials have put the number as low as 50–90%).
Image: The Economist
Hamas and several Arab countries immediately blamed Israel for the attack. Israel claimed that the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist group operating in Gaza. PIJ denied involvement. But the balance of evidence suggests that a mistaken rocket was more likely to be responsible. On October 18, President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv and cautiously endorsed Israel’s developments, telling the country’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the disaster appeared to be caused by “the other team.” The US National Security Council said it came to this conclusion based on “available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity, and open-source video and images of the incident”. On October 19, in a televised address, Mr Biden clearly stated that the hospital bombing “was not carried out by the Israelis”. What information is available—and what does it tell us about the explosion?
timeline of a tragedy
Local Gaza/Israel Time (GMT+3)
Tuesday 17th October
18:15 Hamas fires rockets, causing sirens to sound in southern Israel
18:50 Video footage shows a rocket exploding in the sky over Gaza city
18:59 According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired a series of rockets from a cemetery near Ahli Arab Hospital.
18:59 Video footage shows explosion in hospital car park
19:09 PIJ’s military wing al-Quds Brigades says it has fired rockets at Israel
21:20 Turkey condemns Israel’s “latest example” of “attacks devoid of the most basic human values”
22:46 Jordan condemns Israel for committing “heinous war crimes”
23:55 Egypt condemns Israel’s “clear violations of international law”
Wednesday 18th October
00:39 IDF issues official denial of involvement in hospital explosion
01:31 Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s “gross violations of all international laws and norms”
11:40 President Joe Biden meets Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and claims “another team” was responsible for the blast
17:47 US National Security Council spokesperson says Israel is not responsible for the explosion
Source: News Report
The blast took place in the hospital car park. The number of casualties is unconfirmed, but Israel has accused Hamas of inflating the numbers and the initial death toll appears to have been inflated. A US intelligence assessment obtained by CNN on 19 October estimated it to be between 100 and 300. Images from the scene show several bodies, but it is impossible to verify the exact number. The explosion appears to have left only a small crater, with most of the damage apparently caused by fire.
Many experts believe that the nature of the explosions does not suggest an Israeli attack, noting that they typically cause more structural damage around the point of impact. Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute, a London think-tank, said the damage appeared to be more consistent with damage caused by a failed rocket than by weapons used by Israeli forces. Other experts say most of the damage may have been caused by rocket propellant rather than an explosive weapon. Israeli drone footage of the hospital after the incident shows most buildings intact – although a doctor at the hospital said the roof of the operating room he was working in collapsed. Pictures of burnt cars may indicate a fallen rocket and a. Its fuel made the fire worse.
Ahli Arab Hospital Complex
Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City after the explosion
Israel says it was not carrying out strikes near the hospital at the time of the explosion. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that its military radar systems, which track rocket fire from Gaza, detected rockets fired from close to the hospital at 18:59 on 17 October. These claims have not been independently verified. US officials have told news outlets that they collected signals intelligence and data from infra-red sensors aboard satellites and came to the same conclusions as Israel.
Image: Mohammed Al Masri/Reuters
The IDF also released an audio recording of an intercepted phone call, which it claims was between two Hamas operatives, in which they discussed the possibility that a rocket fired by PIJ was responsible. The identity of these people has not been verified and some observers have noted that they speak Arabic without a Gazan accent. They appear to be relaying second-hand information: one person is surprised to hear PIJ being blamed for the explosion, and another replies that “they’re saying” PIJ is responsible. It is not clear who “they” refers to.
The explosion has caused a lot of damage. Within hours, protests broke out across the Arab world, including in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. Jordan immediately canceled a summit scheduled to be held in its capital Amman with President Biden and Palestinian and Egyptian leaders. Turkey declared three days of national mourning. And the debate over the explosion has thwarted efforts to agree a deal to get aid into the Strip. This will cause even more suffering for civilians in Gaza.