Hundreds dead after airstrike on Gaza hospital


Israel and Palestine are now trying to blame each other for the airstrike on the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza on Tuesday afternoon, during which hundreds were killed.

Health authorities in Gaza say between 200 and 300 people died after the bombing of the hospital. Hamas said in a statement that 500 had died.

The Israeli military blamed Palestinian militants and said an outgoing Islamic Jihad rocket had been misfired. Hamas now claims in turn that it was an air strike by the Israeli army.

At the scene of the disaster in Gaza, there were scenes of chaos as the injured and dead were taken to nearby medical centers.

There were numerous bodies lying in rows on the hospital floor with bloodstained sheets and white plastic wraps. Shocked and saddened family members tried to identify loved ones.

“We were doing an operation in the hospital when there was a strong explosion and the ceiling on the operating room collapsed,” says Ghassan Abu Sittah, a doctor from the medical charity organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“Hospitals are no target. This bloodshed must stop. Enough is enough.”

Before Tuesday’s incident, the hospital in northern Gaza sheltered the wounded and displaced from an intense Israeli bombardment.

Israel has warned one million residents of northern Gaza to flee south before an expected ground invasion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, represents the Anglican Church, which runs the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital.

He said the hospital is one of several medical facilities in northern Gaza subject to evacuation orders and that it had already been hit by “Israeli rocket fire” on October 14, injuring four staff members.

The UN’s labor agency UNRWA says more than one million Palestinians – almost half of Gaza’s population of 2.4 million – have fled their homes.

“There are dead bodies in the streets. Buildings are collapsing on the residents,” says Jamil Abdullah, a Palestinian Swede, still hoping to escape from the blocked enclave.

“The smell of the dead is everywhere.”

In Israel, dozens of mourners gathered for the funeral of five members of the same family killed when militants attacked at Kfar Aza. All five coffins were draped in Israeli flags.

There is progress in the diplomatic bid to free at least 199 hostages taken by Hamas. Turkey said it was holding talks with Hamas to secure their release.

Hamas released a video of one of the prisoners, the French-Israeli woman Mia Shem.

Her mother, Keren Shem, made an emotional plea for her safe return. “I am begging the world to bring my baby back home,” she said at a news conference in Tel Aviv.

Anger at bloodshed

Israel has carried out 11 days of withering attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza – in retaliation for the killing of 1,400 Israelis who were shot, maimed and burned in cross-border attacks on October 7.

Even amid the uncertainty about what caused the incident at the Christian-run hospital, there was swift and widespread international condemnation.

“The responsibility for this crime must be clearly established and the perpetrators held accountable,” said Josep Borrell, head of EU foreign policy.

From Tripoli to Tehran, there is an angry reaction across the entire Muslim world.

Protesters in Jordan – home to millions of Palestinian refugees – tried to storm the Israeli embassy.

In Lebanon, protesters clashed with security forces outside the US embassy. Stones were thrown and a building was set on fire.

Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed armed militant group and political party, called for a “day of rage”.

With thousands of people dead in conflict and the situation only worsening, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” on Wednesday.

Difficult questions

The horror of the events at the Al-Ahli hospital caused a four-way summit in Amman with Palestine’s president, Mahmud Abbas, Jordan’s king, Abdullah II, and Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to be cancelled.

It will be held “when the decision has been made to stop the war and put an end to these massacres”, said Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Safadi.

US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel will continue. He is expected to express solidarity with Israelis over the Hamas attacks, which are also responsible for the deaths of 31 Americans.

The White House also wants to see steps to limit the humanitarian impact of Israel’s military response, which allows aid to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip.

International concern and distress calls have increased over the devastating effects of the war on Palestinian civilians.

About 3,000 Gazans died in the air campaign, including several senior leaders in the organization, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Neighborhoods have been completely destroyed and survivors are left with a dwindling supply of food, water and fuel.

Washington also wants to prevent the conflict from spilling over to the West Bank, Lebanon and other areas.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said aboard Air Force One that Biden would ask Netanyahu “tough questions” about the way forward.

Tens of thousands of Israeli troops were deployed to the border in preparation for a full-scale ground attack.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to “defeat Hamas”, although the exact military objectives remain unclear.