A paramedic holds a wounded child at a hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, 17 October 2023. EFE/EPA/HAITHAM IMAD

Conflicting claims of responsibility for Gaza hospital bombing that killed 500

Cairo, Oct 17 (EFE).- A bomb attack on the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday killed more than 500 people who were sheltering there. Hamas blamed Israeli forces for the attack, while Israel blamed a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militiants aimed at Israel.

“I am at a loss for words,” UN human rights chief Volker Türk said in a statement. “Tonight, hundreds of people were killed – horrifically – in a massive attack on Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City, including patients, health staff and families who had sought refuge in and around the hospital. Once again, the most vulnerable. This is totally unacceptable.”

The High Commissioner did not say who was to blame for the attack, but said that “those responsible must be held accountable,” adding that “we do not yet know the full extent of this carnage.”

Responding to the attack, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said “Gaza is on its knees.”

“I have just arrived in Cairo amid reports that a school and a hospital in Gaza have been attacked today. Hundreds of people have been killed. “Griffiths said in a message on the social networking site X (formerly Twitter). “People are being stripped of their dignity.”

On Tuesday afternoon, about 2,000 civilians were sheltering in the Anglican health center in the center of Gaza City when it was bombed.

The death of at least 500 people was confirmed to EFE by a spokeswoman for the Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Reactions from Palestinians and the Arab world

The Palestinian Authority, which has limited power in the occupied West Bank, accused Israel of committing “a terrible crime in a genocidal war,” and its prime minister, Mohammed Shtayeh, urged the UN Security Council to end the conflict and criticized “the countries that support Israel.”

For his part, the political leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, Ismail Haniye, said Tuesday that this would be “a turning point” in the “Al-Aqsa Storm” operation against Israel and urged Arabs and Muslims to join protests.

In a televised speech, Haniye vowed that Israel would be attacked “on all fronts.”

“Al Aqsa Storm” is the name Hamas gave to the operation it launched against Israel on Oct. 7, when more than 1,400 people were killed in a surprise land, sea and air assault by the Islamists. In retaliation, Israel has been bombing the Gaza Strip for eleven days.

Haniye also urged “the people of the entire Arab and Islamic ‘umma’ (community) to come out now to denounce this massacre, its brutality and these crimes.

Protests have spread across parts of the Arab world in the wake of the Gaza hospital massacre, from the West Bank to Jordan, Tunisia and Yemen.

Israeli accusations

The Israeli army said Tuesday that the explosion was caused by a failed rocket launch into Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants.

An Israeli army spokesman said that “several intelligence sources indicate that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch that hit the hospital.”

“An analysis of the Israeli Army’s operational systems indicates that terrorists fired a volley of rockets in Gaza that passed very close to Al Ahli Hospital at the time it was hit,” an Israeli military spokesman said in a statement.

Shortly thereafter, the military spokesman said that “after further investigation and cross-analysis, it is clear that the Israel Defense Forces did not fire at the hospital in Gaza.”

A military statement also denounced that “terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip fire indiscriminately at Israel,” and noted that since the war began 11 days ago, “approximately 450 rockets fired at Israel have landed in the Gaza Strip, endangering and harming the lives of its residents.”

Islamic Jihad is the second largest military force in Gaza after Hamas, and in August 2022 and May 2023 it fought alone against Israel in multi-day escalations.

It is unclear whether the Palestinian militias have weapons capable of causing the level of damage that occurred at the hospital, an explosion that could have looked more like a missile. EFE