Hundreds killed in Gaza hospital blast, biggest West Bank massacre in latest Israeli-Hamas conflict

ABOUT 500 Palestinians were killed in a blast at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday that Palestinian health authorities said was caused by an Israeli air strike but that the Israeli military blamed on a failed rocket launch by a Palestinian militant group.

The blast was the bloodiest single incident in Gaza since Israel launched an unrelenting bombing campaign against the densely populated territory in retaliation for a deadly cross-border Hamas assault on southern Israeli communities on Oct 7.

It took place on the eve of a visit by US President Joe Biden to Israel to show support for the country in its war with Hamas – the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip – and to hear how Israel plans to minimise civilian casualties.

Reuters could not independently verify who was responsible for the blast.

The Health Minister in the Hamas-run government of Gaza, Mai Alkaila, accused Israel of a massacre. A Gaza civil defence chief said 300 people were killed while a Health Ministry official said 500 were killed.

Prior to Tuesday’s incident, health authorities in Gaza said at least 3,000 people had been killed in Israel’s 11-day bombardment that began after Hamas militants rampaged into Israeli towns and kibbutzes on Oct 7, killing more than 1,300 people, mainly civilians.

Injured people are assisted after an Israeli air strike hit a hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry, in the Gaza Strip on Oct 17 (Pic credit: Reuters)

However, the Israeli military denied responsibility for the blast at the Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza City, suggesting the hospital was hit by a failed rocket launch by the enclave’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad military group.

“An analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit,” a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said.

“Intelligence from multiple sources we have in our hands indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza.”

But Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, told Reuters: “This is a lie and fabrication, it is completely incorrect. The occupation is trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians.”

During the last Israeli-Hamas conflict in 2021, Israel said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups fired around 4,360 rockets from Gaza of which around 680 fell short of Israel and into the Gaza Strip.

Regardless of who was responsible for the hospital blast which Hamas said had killed patients, women and children and others left homeless by Israeli bombardments, it will likely make even more complex diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis. – Oct 18, 2023

Main pic credit: Reuters

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