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Air strike on Gaza hospital kills hundreds, local authorities say

Air strike on Gaza hospital kills hundreds, local authorities say
The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza, on 17 October 2023. (Photo: X / @LocalFocus1)

A blast at a hospital in Gaza City killed about 500 Palestinians on Tuesday in the deadliest single incident since Israel launched an unrelenting bombing campaign in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas cross-border attack.

An Israeli air strike killed hundreds of people at a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday, health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave said, and the United Nations said an Israeli strike also hit one of its schools being used as a shelter.

A Gaza civil defence chief said on Al-Jazeera television that more than 300 people were killed at al-Ahli Arab Hospital. A Gaza Health Ministry official said at least 500 people were killed and injured. Both departments are under the Hamas-run government.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed an initial investigation showed the explosion was caused by a failed Hamas rocket launch, i24NEWS reported. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis News Hub

Earlier on Tuesday, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said an Israeli air strike had killed at least six people after striking one of its schools that has been functioning as a shelter for displaced people.

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 6 October, killing more than 1,300 civilians and soldiers.

Hamas said the blast at the hospital mostly killed displaced people. A senior official for the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, which operates in the West Bank but not in Gaza, described it as a massacre.

Israel’s military denied responsibility for the bombing, saying military intelligence suggested the hospital was hit by a failed rocket launch by the enclave’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad military group.

Following are reactions to the bombing:

World Health Organization

“WHO strongly condemns the attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip. The hospital was operational, with patients, health and care givers, and internally displaced people sheltering there. Early reports indicate hundreds of fatalities and injuries.

“The hospital was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military. The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced.

“WHO calls for the immediate active protection of civilians and health care. Evacuation orders must be reversed. International humanitarian law must be abided by, which means health care must be actively protected and never targeted.

Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyehi

“The hospital massacre confirms the enemy’s brutality and the extent of his feeling of defeat,” he said, adding that the attack will be “a new turning point”.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“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.”

Israel Defence Forces spokesperson

“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.

“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.”

Syrian Presidency

“Syria holds Western countries responsible especially the United States of America, for this massacre and others, since they are a partner of the Zionist entity across all organised operations designed to kill Palestinians.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

“I call on all humanity to take action to stop this unprecedented brutality in Gaza.” DM

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Sandra Maler.)

This is a developing story and will be updated.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Any more clarity if the explosion was an IDF air strike or a Hamas rocket launch malfunction?

    • Shaun Slayer says:

      Read i24News. 1 launched missile turned back and landed on the hospital.

      • Graeme de Villiers says:

        Is this believable, seeing as it’s an Israeli content provider?

      • Ben Harper says:

        So it seems is wasn’t the actual hospital that was hit it was the parking lot next to the hospital and there’s no structural damage to the hospital at all, also evidence has come out that it was a Hamas rocket that failed and fell into the parking lot, the large fire was a result of the unspent rocket propellant

      • Stewart Wood says:

        Saw that video – looks likely that is exactly what happened! In any event using a hospital for launching deadly missiles is a war crime! But then all deaths on any side, even their own, is always used as a propaganda victory for Hamas and the like!

    • Bob Dubery says:

      There won’t be. My gut feeling is that the IDF explanation is the closest, but even they can’t say the truth which would be that it was a tragedy that happened because of an unforeseeable error. Because, of course, if they say that then really nobody is actually responsible, it was just s**t happening (and it could happen when they fire lots of missiles).

      Neither side has any need nor desire to tell the truth, and each will do their best to win the propaganda war and make the other appear responsible.

  • douglas wade says:

    Both sides will believe what they have already chosen to believe.
    Irrespective of this tragedy, Netanyahu has I fear, boxed himself into a war he cannot win. Even if he manages to destroy Hamas, he has just recruited twice as many to some form of resistance, whether it is called Hamas or something else. And what is he then going to do with the two million Gazans? Will Israel rebuild their water supply and everything else currently being destroyed? Will either side trust the other, even slightly, in the next twenty or thirty years?

  • Bewe 1414 says:

    The Hamas group will now have supporters that will come to assist them from all over the world. They will find a way to help them. This will become a battle of one religion versus the other religion.

  • Pierre Schutz says:

    Apparently the videos purporting to show the attack on the hospital have time stamp issues, both on the part of the IDF and the other side.

    Quoting from a Rolling stone article:

    One viral video purporting to depict the blast on Tuesday — which shows a rocket veering off its intended course and back into the area from which it had been fired — was quickly identified as having been posted on X (formerly Twitter) in 2022.

    Another video claiming to depict a rocket failing amid a barrage of launches from the Gaza Strip was identified as footage posted on the Israeli Defense Force’s YouTube channel in August 2022.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    The tragedy of this is irrefutable. In times like this – take note that even though the IDF / Israel does not accept responsibility, they take no pleasure in this. No-one that supports them, at home or abroad, is dancing in the streets, handing out sweets, etc. This is a fundamental difference.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    I find it implausibe that Israel would intentionally target a hospital as it would provide little military significance and would (has) generated enormous international outrage. They would obviously know that and have been able to predict the potential for a reduction in the level of support from their traditional backers. That is of course not to say that they couldn’t have done it by mistake.

    The idea that one of many ‘artisanal’ rockets fired at Israel from positions behind the hospital could fail and fall short striking the hospital is perfectly plausible. Similarly the possibility of fuel, gas or even Hamas’ munitions being stored onsite and contributing to secondary explosions seems far from unlikely.

    Doesn’t matter a jot what proves to be true, it remains a horrifying tragedy and the nutcase true believers on opposite ends of the issue will not be moved from their positions a centimetre.

    • Shaun Slayer says:

      Ok, so we have 2 sides blaming each other. At the end of the day I would even believe Russia over Israel, oh wait, Russia is also a terrorist organization, so I won’t. 🙂

  • Dov de Jong says:

    This has been exposed as fake news. The president of the United States of America has confirmed that the attack was in fact a failed missile strike from the Gaza strip.
    So kindly update with the truth.

    • virginia crawford says:

      It was a president of the US thst bombed Iraq on the basis of “proven, irrefutable” evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction; later proved to be nonsense. Bombed Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden and “bring democracy” etc. So a pinch of salt please . No, make that a huge sack.

  • Dov de Jong says:

    I think that you should update Al Mughrabi’s headline. It is clear that this was not an AIR strike. I would expect the the Daily Maverick to know what fake news is by now.

  • Dov de Jong says:

    In the context of Hospitals in the Gaza strip it is well known that under the Al Shiva hospital there is a big hamas command centre.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Remarkable that rockets seldom cause this much damage when they land in Israel.

    • Ben Harper says:

      The damage was largely because of the unspent rocket fuel that exploded on impact. it has been proven from multiple sources that is was a hamas launched rocket that malfunctioned and fell, it’s also been proven that the rocket landed in the hospital parking lot and did not hit the hospital as the zealots like to claim

  • Kirsten du Toit says:

    This is fake news, unverified and published. Why not protect your reputation DM and take it down? It is incendiary and irresponsible to say the least. Kindly verify facts before inciting violence and protests, thank you.

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