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.
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.
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.
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.’
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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.
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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