The incident at the Gaza health centre has sparked a wave of protests in the Middle East against the US and Israel amid a visit to the region by Joe Biden, who said in Tel Aviv that the attack "seems to have come from the other side"

Israel blames Palestinian Islamic Jihad for Gaza hospital blast

La gente se reúne alrededor de los cuerpos de palestinos asesinados después de una explosión que arrasó el hospital Ahli Arab en el centro de Gaza después de que fueron transportados al hospital Al-Shifa, el 17 de octubre de 2023 - AFP/DAWOOD NEMER
AFP/DAWOOD NEMER - The IDF insists that the explosion at the hospital was caused by a missed missile launched from Gaza that missed Israeli territory and landed in the Palestinian enclave

The war between Israel and Hamas is escalating dangerously and threatens to expand and involve other actors in the Middle East. The explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in the Gaza Strip has provoked strong condemnation from the Arab world, which accuses Israel of the massacre that has caused hundreds of deaths. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry initially reported at least 500 dead, a figure that was later revised to between 200 and 300, AFP reported.

Immediately after the blast, the terrorist group blamed Israel for the attack. It did little good for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to deny this and point the finger at Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terrorist group operating in Gaza. Despite the evidence provided by Israel, Arab and Muslim countries - as well as numerous international media outlets - echoed the information coming out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. 

The IDF insists that the explosion at the hospital was caused by a missile misfired from Gaza that missed Israeli territory and landed in the Palestinian enclave. To prove this, the Israeli military authorities have provided pictures, videos and even a telephone conversation between two Hamas members in which they admit that the missile was from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 

"An analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that terrorists in Gaza fired a series of missiles that passed very close to the Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit," explained IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.  

Even footage published by Al Jazeera, a Qatari media outlet critical of Israel, showed a missile misfiring and falling inside Gaza. It is not the first time Israel has accused Palestinian groups of attacking their own population while trying to reach Israeli territory, as well as using hospitals and schools as weapons and ammunition depots.  

"Intelligence from multiple sources in our possession indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch that hit the Gaza hospital," Hagari added. Shortly afterwards, the Israeli army also released images showing that the explosion occurred in the car park and not in the hospital itself. 

This incident came amid numerous attacks on Israel from Gaza. Sirens were blaring throughout the afternoon in areas near the Palestinian enclave, but also in the centre of the country in and around Tel Aviv. 

"Let everyone know: the barbaric terrorists in Gaza are the ones who attacked the Gaza hospital, not the IDF," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said shortly after the blast. "Those who cruelly murdered our children are also murdering their own," the Israeli leader added, referring to the massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas on 7 October. An estimated 1,300 people were killed by the terrorist group, which also kidnapped, tortured and raped civilians, including children.

Also, during the first days of the war, Hamas fired a shell at the child development section of the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, a town in southern Israel that has suffered numerous attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. 

Shame on the media for swallowing the lies of Hamas and Islamic Jihad," said Israeli President Isaac Herzog, referring to journalists who spread Hamas' information without checking it. In many cases, the same journalists who demanded images from Israel of babies beheaded by Hamas. "Shame on the vile terrorists in Gaza who intentionally shed the blood of innocents," Herzog added.

Strong condemnation from Arab and Muslim world and anti-Semitic incidents in Europe 

Despite the evidence provided by Israel, Muslim and Arab countries have not changed their statements. Countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have accused Israel of the massacre. Even governments such as Syria and Turkey, which often carry out attacks against civilians, criticised Israel for what happened.

Following the incident, Jordan also chose to cancel a summit in Amman between US President Joe Biden, Jordanian King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The hospital massacre has also sparked violent protests in nations such as Jordan and Turkey against Israeli diplomatic delegations. 

Attacks on Jewish centres have also been reported in parts of Europe. In Berlin, for example, a synagogue has been attacked with Molotov cocktails, German police told AP. Meanwhile, a Jewish community school in Rome has been evacuated as a precautionary measure after a bomb threat, reports the Italian news agency ANSA.

Such anti-Semitic incidents have been occurring in Europe and the United States since the war between Israel and Hamas began, prompting the authorities to tighten security. 

In Lebanon, which does not have an Israeli embassy because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations, citizens have demonstrated against the US embassy in Beirut.

In this regard, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah announced an "unprecedented day of rage" against Israel. Tehran, for its part, has called for "global unity" against Israel. "Time is up," Iranian Foreign Minister Hosein Amirabdolahian said on social media. Since the war began, Iran has been threatening to intervene in the conflict against Israel. Indeed, before the hospital explosion, Amirabdolahian warned of "pre-emptive action" against the country.  

Biden says in Israel that the attack appears to have come "from the other side" 

The blast at the Al-Ahli hospital has coincided with US President Joe Biden's visit to Israel. Biden was also scheduled to travel to other countries in the region. There were also high hopes that this trip could be a peace-builder. However, the attack on the health centre has shattered all these expectations, raising tensions in the Middle East.  

Despite the incident, Biden's plans have remained on schedule. The US leader landed in Tel Aviv this morning, where he reaffirmed his support for Israel. "You are not alone," Biden said before his meeting with the Israeli war cabinet.

Netanyahu thanked Biden for supporting Israel "today, tomorrow and forever". The Prime Minister also stressed that Washington has provided Israel with "the tools it needs to defend itself" and has "sent a clear message" to its enemies.

Biden, for his part, again condemned the 7 October massacres committed by Hamas. "They have committed evils and atrocities that make ISIS look more rational," he said. Regarding the recent attack on the Gazan hospital, Biden said that "it looks like it came from the other side".  

Regarding the attack and its perpetrator, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called on his Twitter account for people to "wait for the facts and report them clearly and accurately". "Last night, many jumped to conclusions about the tragic loss of life at Al Ahli hospital," Cleverly said, asserting that this "evil could put even more lives at risk".