A deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza sparked protests across the Middle East, with blame from the Arab perspective focused on Israel for conducting a airstrike on the hospital–which Israel denies and blames on militants from an Islamic Jihad group who were trying to fire rockets over the hospital.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group stirred the pot by calling for a “day of rage” on Wednesday in condemnation of the alleged airstrike or bombing.
Following the Tuesday blast that the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said killed 500 people, protests broke out at several locations in Lebanon, including at the French Embassy in Beirut and the U.S. Embassy outside of the city.
The health ministry in Gaza said the blast at the hospital was caused by an Israeli air raid. Israel, on the other hand, has blamed the explosion on a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group. The PIJ has denied the allegation.
A failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization hit the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza City.
IAF footage from the area around the hospital before and after the failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization: pic.twitter.com/AvCAkQULAf
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 18, 2023
Asked to explain the size of the explosion at the site, chief Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said it was consistent with unspent rocket fuel catching fire. “Most of this damage would have been done due to the propellant, not just the warhead,” he said.
He added that Israeli rockets detonating on the ground would have left a large crater, and that aerial photographs show no signs of any visible crater, even though the fire appears to have originated in a parking lot adjacent to the hospital, with flames then spreading to the building.
Israel has published recordings of intercepted radio messages that appear to implicate a group of men firing rockets from inside Gaza on a track that included overflying the Baptist Hospital, and has said that no Israeli aircraft were in the vicinity at the time of the explosion.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has made a statement strongly condemning the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip (also known as the Baptist Hospital). However it offers no theory as to whom was responsible, or whether the attack was accidental or deliberate.
“The hospital was operational, with patients, health and care givers, and internally displaced people sheltering there. Early reports indicate hundreds of fatalities and injuries.
“The hospital was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military. The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced.
“WHO calls for the immediate active protection of civilians and health care. Evacuation orders must be reversed. International humanitarian law must be abided by, which means health care must be actively protected and never targeted.”
The fighting has raised fears of a widening war in the Middle East. The United States has sent aircraft carriers to support Israel, while allies of Hamas including Iran and Tehran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have vowed to respond to a planned Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
Sources: VOA, WHO, Al Jazeera.