Israel says failed Islamic Jihad rocket caused Gaza hospital blast

Israel claims explosion was a result of a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza

Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari at the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. AFP
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Israel's military on Wednesday provided what it described as evidence that a misfired Palestinian rocket, rather than one of its own munitions, caused the explosion at Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night in which hundreds of people died.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza, has blamed the blast on Israel. Israel claims it was a result of a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group in the enclave.

In an English-language briefing televised shortly before US President Joe Biden landed in Israel for a solidarity visit, chief military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said an investigation had "confirmed that there was no [Israeli] fire from the land, sea or air that hit the hospital”.

“Our radars tracked rockets fired from within Gaza at the time of the explosion. The trajectory analysis from the barrage of rockets confirms that the barrage of rockets was fired from close to the hospital,” Adm Hagari said on Wednesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday he was "horrified by the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a strike on a hospital in Gaza today, which I strongly condemn." France's President Emmanuel Macron said on X, formerly Twitter, that "nothing can justify striking a hospital. Nothing can justify targeting civilians," and that a thorough investigation should be launched.

US President Joe Biden, arriving in Israel on Wednesday, said he believed the air strike "appears as though it was done by the other team."

Asked to explain the size of the explosion at the site, the Israeli army spokesman 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.

The Israeli army is under extreme scrutiny over its denials that it was responsible for hitting the hospital in Gaza in what is being labelled as the deadliest single Israeli strike on Gaza since the war began on October 7.

Reporters pressed Adm Hagari on previous Israeli army claims that were later retracted after further inquiries. The case of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was also raised.

Abu Akleh, 51, died after being shot in the head on May 11, 2022. She was wearing a bulletproof jacket with the word "Press" written across it. Israel initially denied responsibility and blamed Palestinian gunmen operating in the area, only to later concede there was a “high possibility” one of its soldiers accidentally shot the Al Jazeera journalist while she was covering a military operation near Jenin.

“We have to be credible. You mentioned Shireen Abu Akleh … we have to be credible. We learnt our lesson. This is not Jabalia, this is a hospital. We had to check and double check,” Adm Hagari said.

To add more evidence, the Israeli army on Tuesday also published what it alleged was an audio recording of a conversation, with English captions, between militants speaking about rockets misfiring.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 11:00 AM