A massive bombing at a Gaza City hospital killed hundreds of people and led to Israel and Hamas trading blame for the attack, which happened ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
(Bloomberg) — A massive bombing at a Gaza City hospital killed hundreds of people and led to Israel and Hamas trading blame for the attack, which happened ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
The Gaza Health Ministry reported that 500 died in the explosion on Tuesday evening and accused Israel of being the cause. Arab countries joined the chorus of blame, escalating regional tensions with the Israel-Hamas war showing no sign of ending.
For more on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.
The Israeli army, however, said the hospital had been hit in a failed missile strike by the militant group Islamic Jihad, which operates in Gaza. Israel Defense Forces said at a briefing that a barrage of rockets were fired by the militants in close proximity to the hospital. Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, runs the Gaza Strip.
Islamic Jihad, which is separate from Hamas, denied it’s behind the bombing, saying the group doesn’t “use public facilities as military basis.”
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Arab leaders and Turkey reacted with outrage. Jordan and Palestinian officials canceled a summit scheduled for Wednesday in the Jordanian capital of Amman that Biden was meant to attend.
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IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel has evidence that the blast was the result of a failed attack by Islamic Jihad, which fired about 10 missiles starting from 6:59 p.m. local time, shortly before the hospital explosion. Israeli aerial footage shows there was no direct hit at the hospital from a missile from any source, and the Islamic Jihad rockets hit the hospital car park.
There were no craters or damage to the hospital building which would have been the case with an aerial strike, Hagari said, while intercepted calls between Hamas operatives prove the existence of the Islamic Jihad assault.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said Israeli planes didn’t attack the hospital and blamed Islamic Jihad.
The US called for an investigation.
“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,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday, hours before he arrived in Israel.
In its most scathing statement since the start of the war, Saudi Arabia said it was a “heinous crime committed by Israeli occupation forces” and stressed the need to open safe passages to deliver food and medicine to civilians in Gaza.
“This serious development requires the international community to abandon double standards and selectivity in the application of international humanitarian law, especially concerning Israel’s criminal practices,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.
The escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the past week and the high death toll in Gaza have cast a shadow on the diplomatic overtures between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It was only last month when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said the kingdom and Israel were getting close “every day” to a normalization deal.
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The war has also put the UAE, Bahrain and others who have signed peace deals with Israel in recent years in a tough spot as rage grows in the Arab world over violence in Gaza.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt all blamed Israel. The UAE, which forged ties with Israel as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for more global efforts to prevent “the region from being pulled into new levels of violence, tension and instability.”
Dozens of people in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Ramallah in the West Bank took to the streets late Tuesday to protest the explosion at the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which houses patients as well as people who fled their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
Israel has been bombing Gaza and preparing its forces for a potential ground invasion as it seeks to crush Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. In a shock attack on Oct. 7, Hamas militants infiltrated Israel by land, sea and air and killed over 1,400 people and abducted others.
Israel responded by striking Gaza, killing thousands, according to officials there.
Several hours before the explosion at the hospital on Tuesday night, an Israel Defense Forces Arabic language spokesperson, Avichay Adraee, urged residents of the Zeitoun neighborhood, where the hospital is located, to evacuate.
“You know well that the neighborhood is jam-packed with hideouts of Hamas terrorists and because of that and for the sake of your safety and that of your families and loved ones go south beyond Wadi Gaza,” Adraee said in a video posted on X.
–With assistance from Zaid Sabah, Marissa Newman, Kateryna Kadabashy and Sam Dagher.
(Updates with Israel Defense Forces briefing from third paragraph.)
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