What Do We Know About The Airstrike On Hospital In Gaza? The Changing Narrative

What Do We Know About The Airstrike On Hospital In Gaza? The Changing Narrative

Hamas, who control Gaza, blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike. On the other hand, Israel in its defence said the blast was caused by an errant rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another armed group.

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Thursday, October 19, 2023, 10:21 PM IST
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IDF

Nearly 500 people were killed after a rocket hit at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip on October 17. The attack came a little over a week after the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas staged a terrorist attack on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people in a day. The catastrophe led Israel to declare war and it began bombing the other side in retaliation. 

Hamas, who control Gaza, blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike. On the other hand, Israel in its defence said the blast was caused by an errant rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another armed group. Further, the group has also refuted the claims. 

On Wednesday, during his visit to Israel, US President Joe Biden supporting Israel's position, said, “The data I was shown by my Defense Department On Wednesday, President Biden backed Israel’s position, citing “the data I was shown by my Defense Department and based on information we have today, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.”

The competing claims have not been independently verified yet, for IDF has its intel and sources to prove that the rockets weren't fired by Israel that killed hundreds of people taking shelter in the hospital in Gaza. 

The death toll?

Stating the figure of the casualties, the Gazan health ministry put the toll at 500 or more. Later, they changed to 'hundreds'. As of now, no figure can be confirmed, but images that surfaced on the internet suggest that the number of dead people was high. 

Selim Mohammad Abu, who works at the Shaifa Hospital near the blast site in an interview said that 150 to 200 people were killed in the explosion and about 300 people were wounded who all were taken to his hospital. He doesn't have the tally of the dead because there was so much chaos. 

The Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is run by the Anglican Church and overseen by Archbishop Hosam Naoum. He said that a large number of civilians from Gaza have taken shelter in the hospital to escape Israeli airstrikes. According to the hospital website, it has a capacity of 80 beds.

Claims by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group which supports barbaric killings in the name of religion and whose members were also part of the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, have denied that an errant rocket from its arsenal had caused the explosion in the hospital. In an interview with foreign media, a spokesman of the group, Musab Al-Breim said, “The capacity of our weapons supply was 'primitive'.” The group stated that the extent of destruction seen in the video footage was caused by Israel's airstrike. 

It is to be noted the group's military wing posted a video on the night of the explosion stating that it had fired a barrage of rockets towards Israel — a few minutes after the blast occurred. However, the spokesman defending the group said, 'the timing of posting the video can not always indicate the time of launches.' He also agreed that their rockets have killed people in Palestine in the past. “We have made mistakes, I am not going to deny it. However, not mistakes of this size,” he said. 

Israeli army's defence 

Later on Wednesday, the IDF released aerial footage, and photos which the IDF said were of Hamas members. The IDF said that the blast was caused by the rocket misfired by the PIJ. “The IDF has concluded an after-action review and can confirm that the Islamic Jihad was responsible for the strike on the hospital in Gaza City,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagri, the chief spokesperson of the IDF. 

IDF

IDF |

The IDF also shared various photos, videos, and other evidence that show that the attack was not carried out by Israel. He said a barrage of around 10 rockets was fired by Islamic Jihad from a nearby cemetery in the evening and at the same time, there were reports of an explosion at the hospital in Gaza city. The chief also claimed that the firing of the rocket and bombing of the hospital is to launch a global media campaign to hide what really happened and they have inflated the number of casualties.

IDF shared pictures of the parking lot where there's a sign of burning, no cratering and no structural damage to nearby buildings. “As opposed to the damage caused by any aerial munition which would have been of a different nature. We would have seen craters and structural damage to buildings, both of which haven’t been identified in this incident,” he said. 

The IDF declined that the attack had actually even caused this number of casualties. “The size of the damage we see here is due to the warhead of the Islamic Jihad rocket, but most of the rockets' propellent is still evident due to the short flight of the rocket (because the launch failed).”

Following the visual evidence, IDF has released infra-red imagery of the parking lot. The pictures show central locations of fires and some debris on the rooftops. No craters can be identified. And all walls of the surrounding buildings are intact. In addition, IDF also released some examples of what air-to-ground munition craters look like, which do not exist in this instance. 

IDF

IDF |

“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 launched an immediate examination, which was overseen at the very highest levels of command,” said Rear Admiral Hagri. 

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said, “The Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Central Gaza was not hit by Israel — it was hit by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket! Everyone can see that a rocket barrage was launched from Gaza and one of the missiles failed to leave the Strip, landing on the hospital. The terrorists in Gaza are not only responsible for murdering Israeli children — they also murder Palestinian children! You’ve seen Hamas and PIJ beheading children. Stop believing these ISIS-like terrorists. The only ones shooting indiscriminate missiles at civilians are the Palestinians, who have been doing it for years!”

Hamas' take on the blast

After the blast on the hospital in Gaza, Hamas released a statement which read, “The explosion was a horrific massacre and a crime of genocide caused by an Israeli airstrike.”

According to the Gazan health ministry and video footage, the Ahli Arab Hospital had been hit previously by rocket fire on October 14. In the blast, “four staff members were injured,” said the Anglican Church in a statement. At a news conference on Tuesday night, the official for the Gazan health ministry, Yousef Abu al-Rish said that the Israeli military had called the hospital director and told him that the earlier blast had been a warning to evacuate.

Archbishop Naoum, on Wednesday, said that the IDF had asked the managers of the hospital to evacuate the patients and staff from the hospital compound, over calls and text messages. The Archbishop said that IDF's warnings were about the hospital, and not part of its evacuation push to North Gaza. “There were specific warnings to get out of the building,” the archbishop said.

When asked by Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, an IDF spokesman said that the calls to the hospital were part of a wider campaign to request civilians to leave Northern Gaza, ahead of an expected invasion by the Israel army. “The hospital was never a target for the military,” he said. 

The analysis here, including the evidence showed by the IDF and ground interviews, shows allegations — in this case, baseless and false allegations made by a terrorist group — against Israel can spread and inflame tension in this time, not to mention, the changing of narrative and missing the fact that Hamas from Gaza invaded into Israeli territory and massacred more than 1,400 civilians including foreign nationals in a day. 

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