In the midst of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, a tragic incident has drawn the world’s attention. A hospital in Gaza City, al-Ahli Arab Hospital, was hit by a devastating explosion, resulting in over 500 casualties at the time of this writing. Some say this is the worst attack in the 16 years of the Gaza blockade. However, Israel and the Pentagon have deflected blame for the attack.
The Israeli military initially claimed that a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza passed near the hospital at the time of the explosion. According to Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari, “intelligence information” from various sources pointed the finger at the Islamic Jihad group for the failed rocket launch that struck the hospital. This accusation immediately led to outrage among Palestinians, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad describing Israel’s claims as “lies” and an attempt to deflect responsibility for the tragedy.
This incident is not an isolated one in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has been previously criticised for targeting schools and hospitals during times of conflict. Just this month, a school run by the UN in Gaza was hit by Israeli bombs, and several other schools have suffered damage in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israeli forces.
In addition, the Israeli military’s shelling of al-Fakhura School in 2009 and the 2014 shelling of a school in Jabalia, both of which resulted in more than 55 casualties, have left scars on the collective memory of the Palestinian people. Moreover, the shelling of al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah in 2014, which killed four people and injured many more, added to the controversies surrounding Israeli military actions.
Social media played a significant role in the unfolding of events surrounding the hospital strike. Posts from official Israeli accounts and the Israeli ambassador to the US initially claimed that a rocket from Gaza caused the explosion. However, the deletion and subsequent editing of the posts raised questions.
(Left) A tweet by Hananya Naftali, a member of the IDF, tweeted that the IAF struck the hospital. The tweet was deleted minutes later. (Right) The official Israel twitter account showing footage from a live feed, 40 minutes after attack.
The official X account of the country of Israel posted a video claiming to show the rockets fired from the PIJ. Journalist Aric Toler of The New York Times pointed out that a video’s timestamps indicated it was recorded at least 40 minutes after the hospital explosion was first reported, causing speculation about its credibility. The account swiftly edited the tweet by deleting the video.
Many testimonials of IDF-warnings have been made following the attack. Dr Yusuf Abu Reesh, a medic in the al-Ahli Hospital states that the director, Dr Maher Ayyad, was told by the IDF that they tried calling about the strike, but nobody picked up the phone. He further claims that the IDF subsequently warned them with nearby missiles. He said, “The IDF told us, ‘We warned you yesterday with two bombs. So why have you not evacuated the hospital until this moment?’.” The first claim by Dr Maher Ayyad appears to be confirmed by Richard Sewell, dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem, who affirms that a strike on the hospital had occurred a few days ago. Lastly, the World Health Organization confirms that al-Ahli “hospital was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military.”
The IDF has also released an “intercepted call” in which they claim that two Hamas operatives admit that a failed rocket landed on al-Ahli hospital. However, many native Arabic speakers on Twitter have noted that the grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary do not seem to be from a native Arab of Gaza. Furthermore, many have speculated that it could be AI-generated due to the massive improvements in the technology over the last year.
In a separate analysis of the rocket that struck the hospital, experts noted several peculiarities. The size and yield of the explosion were inconsistent with typical Hamas rockets, and the absence of secondary explosions made it unlikely that the hospital was a weapons store. The blast yield was similar to IDF munitions, raising further questions about the incident.
While Israel claims that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is responsible, various factors and expert analyses have cast doubt on this narrative and question Israel’s credibility.