Israel says it has proof Islamist militants were behind deadly Gaza hospital blast

The Israeli military denied responsibility, blaming a rocket misfired by Islamic Jihad, while Hamas blamed Israeli air strikes.

Israel says it has proof Islamist militants were behind deadly Gaza hospital blast
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. A blast ripped through a hospital in war-torn Gaza killing hundreds of people late on October 17, sparking global condemnation and angry protests around the Muslim world. Spokesman Hagari told a press briefing that at the time of the incident, the Israeli army was not conducting air operations near the hospital and the rockets that hit the building did not match theirs. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have hit back at claims they were responsible (Picture: AFP via Getty)

Israel’s military says it has proof an Islamist militant group was responsible for the devastating blast at a hospital in Gaza which is feared to have killed up to 500 people.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said the massacre was ‘unprecedented’, with many of those killed at the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital being women and children.

It has inflamed tensions in a region already in crisis since Hamas’s murderous rampage across the border on October 7, triggering protests against Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign.

But the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have hit back at claims they were responsible, instead accusing Hamas of launching a ‘global media campaign to hide what really happened’ and inflating the number of victims.

Arriving in the country, US President Joe Biden said the explosion appears to not have been caused by Israel.

‘Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,’ he said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has allegedly bombed a Gaza hospital
Up to 500 people are feared to have died in the strike
GAZA CITY, GAZA - OCTOBER 17: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts death) A screen grab captured from a video shows the doctors of the al-Shifa Hospital making a press statement among the corpses after the injured and dead are brought there following the Israeli attack on Gaza's Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, in Gaza City, Gaza on October 17, 2023 (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Doctors of the al-Shifa Hospital making a press statement among the corpses after the injured and dead are brought there following the blast (Picture: Anadolu via Getty Images)
Wounded Palestinian children lay at the al-Shifa hospital, following Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Abed Khaled)
Wounded Palestinian children lay at the al-Shifa hospital (Picture: AP)

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters the military has been able to prove the blast was caused by a misfired rocket set off by the Islamic Jihad group.

He said a barrage of rockets was fired by Hamas towards Israel at 6.15pm, followed by another 10 by Islamic Jihad at 6.59pm – the same time as initial reports of an explosion at the hospital.

The structure of the hospital building remains largely intact, Hagari said, with the shell landing in a carpark, with the unused propellant then igniting a huge blast.

He said ‘no IDF fire by land, sea, or air hit the hospital’ and told reporters the rocket was likely fired from a nearby cemetery.

The spokesman also said militants ‘refer to an Islamic Jihad failure’ in intercepted communications, adding that it was now being ‘used as propaganda against Israel’.

Hagari said: ‘It is impossible to know what happened as quickly as Hamas claimed they knew. That should have been an initial warning sign for many.

‘Unlike Hamas, the IDF have launched an immediate examination which was overseen at the very highest levels of command.

‘This professional review was based on intelligence, operational systems and aerial footage, all of which we cross-checked.

‘The evidence which we are sharing with you all confirms the explosion in the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket that was misfired.’

Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. At least 200 people were killed in an air strike on a hospital compound that sheltered the wounded and displaced from Israeli bombing, local health officials said on October 18, prompting global condemnation and fury. Spokesman Hagari told a press briefing that at the time of the strike, the Israeli army was not conducting air operations near the hospital and the rockets that hit the building did not match theirs. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv (Picture: AFP via Getty)
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. At least 200 people were killed in an air strike on a hospital compound that sheltered the wounded and displaced from Israeli bombing, local health officials said on October 18, prompting global condemnation and fury. Spokesman Hagari told a press briefing that at the time of the strike, the Israeli army was not conducting air operations near the hospital and the rockets that hit the building did not match theirs. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The explosion at the hospital sparked global condemnation and fury (Picture: AFP via Getty)
METRO GRAPHICS Gaza Map 18.10 Gaza Hospital Rocket
The IDF said several rockets fired from within Gaza sailed over the hospital and suggested one failed (Picture: Metro)

Sorry, this video isn't available any more.

One of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior advisers similarly blamed the disaster on a failed rocket fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

Speaking to Sky News, Mark Regev said: ‘The statistics are clear. In past rounds of fighting, some 33% of Islamic Jihad rockets fired at Israel fell short and landed in Gaza.

‘Our intelligence is reporting to us that there was Islamic Jihad fire over the vicinity of the hospital and apparently a rocket malfunctioned and hit the hospital.

‘We had a documented case of this in the last round of fighting in 2021 where everyone said Israel had hit a target and killed an innocent family. 

‘In the end we could prove with a video that it was their rocket that was launched and we saw the rocket land.’

Government spokesman Eylon Levy told the broadcaster they also ‘absolutely’ dispute the figures put forward by Gaza’s health ministry.

He said the country was ‘extremely suspicious that within minutes [of the explosion] Hamas immediately threw out outrageous numbers’, adding: ‘Absolutely we dispute those numbers.’

In a statement of their own, the terror group described Israel’s accusations as ‘lies’.

It said: ‘The accusations put forward by the enemy are false and baseless.’

They claimed Israel had ordered the hospital to evacuate and a bomb dropped by an Israeli plane caused the blast.

Protesters took to the streets in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and in the West Bank after former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called for demonstrations in front of embassies around the world.

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - OCTOBER 17: People gather to protest against Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza as Israeli attacks continue, in Ramallah, West Bank on October 17, 2023. Palestinian Civil Police Force intervened against the demonstrators who lit fires and blocked some roads. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu via Getty Images)
People gather to protest against Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza (Picture: Anadolu via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 17: Protesters demonstrate in front of the Israeli Consulate after an explosion at a hospital in Gaza killed hundreds on October 17, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey. A protest was rapidly organized here outside the Israeli consulate after Palestinian officials said that more than 500 people were killed in an alleged Israeli air strike today at the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. Israeli officials have suggested that the explosion was caused by a misfired Hamas rocket. Earlier today, Israel's National Security Council warned Israeli travelers to leave Turkey as soon as possible, citing the risk of attacks. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey (Picture: Getty)
Demonstrators set fire to a makeshift Israeli flag during a protest, after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
Demonstrators set fire to a makeshift Israeli flag during a protest (Picture: Reuters)

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group called for ‘a day of unprecedented anger’ against Israel and Biden’s visit.

The president’s visit was supposed to help calm the region and shore up humanitarian efforts for Gaza.

But in the wake of the hospital strike, Jordan cancelled a summit with him, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Abbas also pulled out of a meeting with Biden.

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