Blast at Gaza hospital kills hundreds; Palestinians blame Israel while IDF cites militant rocket misfire News
Archbishop of Canterbury
Blast at Gaza hospital kills hundreds; Palestinians blame Israel while IDF cites militant rocket misfire

A blast at the Anglican Church-run Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City’s southern Al Zaytoun neighborhood Tuesday evening local time killed hundreds of people, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Gaza’s health ministry initially placed the death toll at 500 and blamed an Israel Defense Force (IDF) airstrike. However, on Wednesday, the IDF released surveillance video capturing what they claim to be a “failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.” The Al-Ahli Arab Hospital had been sheltering civilians at the time the blast occurred.

The IDF initially disputed Hamas claims that Israel was responsible for the strike on Tuesday, when the IDF’s top spokesperson claimed that the blast had been the result of a failed rocket attack by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. At the time, the spokesperson cited to intelligence sources. Then on Wednesday, the IDF released aerial surveillance video on X (formerly Twitter) and outlined the reasons why the airstrike could not have originated with Israeli forces. In the video, the IDF highlights the lack of crater typically caused by Israeli missiles and the location of the alleged misfire.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which administers the hospital as a ministry of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement calling the blast an “attack”, reading in part:

In the strongest terms, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemns this atrocious attack that has transpired in the heart of Gaza. Initial reports suggest the loss of countless lives, a manifestation of what can only be described as a crime against humanity. Hospitals, by the tenants of international humanitarian law, are sanctuaries, yet this assault has transgressed those sacred boundaries. We heed the call of [Anglican] Archbishop [of Canterbury] Justin Welby, who emplored for the safeguarding of medical facilities and the recession of evacuation orders. Regrettably, Gaza remains bereft of safe havens.

The diocese also said the incident “deserves international condemnation and retribution.”

Chief IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari denied responsibility for the blast and implicated Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Islamist group fighting Israel alongside Hamas. Hagari said in a video:

I can confirm that an analysis of the IDF operational systems indicates a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the … hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit. Intelligence from few sources that we have in our hands indicates that the Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza.

In its press release, the Palestinian Red Crescent said the “bombardment” of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was a “war crime.” Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel and Palestine are both parties, prohibits civilian hospitals from being targeted and requires that they “be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.” However, Article 19 states that the protection can cease if the hospital is “used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy” if a warning has been given with a “reasonable time limit.”

According to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was previously hit by Israeli rocket fire on Saturday, resulting in damage to two floors of its diagnostic cancer center and four injuries. The strike prompted Anglican Archbishop Welby to declare in a statement that “[h]ospitals and patients in Gaza are in grave danger.”

At least 2,778 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed during hostilities since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, according to the Palestinian health ministry and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

This article was updated to reflect recent developments in the story on Wednesday, October 18 at 3:21 PM EST.