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Gaza Hospital Explosion: What We Know

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The Israeli and Palestinian authorities have traded blame for a catastrophic explosion on Tuesday at a hospital in Gaza City which Palestinian officials say has left hundreds dead.

Many questions about the blast remained on Wednesday. Neither side’s claims about who was responsible had been independently verified. The death toll could not be independently confirmed, though video footage verified by The New York Times showed scores of bodies strewn across the hospital’s courtyard, suggesting the number of victims was high.

The hospital, which is better known as Al-Ma’amadani and is run by the Anglican Church, usually has 80 beds, according to the diocese’s website, but hundreds of families had sought refuge there after more than a week of Israeli strikes in Gaza.

Here is what we know so far about the explosion.

American officials have said that multiple strands of early intelligence indicate that the blast was caused by Palestinian fighters. The intelligence, which includes infrared satellite data, shows a launch of a rocket or missile from Palestinian fighter positions within Gaza, the officials said on Wednesday.

“While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open-source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive information, other U.S. officials stressed that the analysis was preliminary.

Islamic Jihad, whose members participated in the attacks on Israel that killed at least 1,400 people on Oct. 7, said that Israel’s accusations that one of its rockets malfunctioned and hit the hospital were “false and baseless.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the group pointed out that Israel had previously given orders to evacuate hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip as it continues to bombard the enclave. The group claimed that eyewitness testimony, video footage and the extent of the destruction showed that the blast was caused by an Israeli aerial bombardment.

The New York Times is assessing the material.

The Gazan health ministry, which is overseen by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, said on Wednesday afternoon that 471 people had been killed in the explosion. The ministry’s spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra, said in a statement on Facebook that 314 people were injured, and a further 28 were in critical condition.

Mohammad Abu Selim, the head of the nearby Shifa Hospital, where many of the victims were taken, said in an interview hours after the blast that about 500 people had been wounded or killed. He said he had no official tally of the dead because of the terrible condition that many of the bodies had arrived in.

In a statement, Hamas said the attack was “a horrific massacre” and “a crime of genocide.”

The Ahli Arab Hospital was previously hit by an Israeli strike on Oct. 14, according to the Gazan health ministry and video footage verified by The New York Times. The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Church, said in a statement that four staff members had been injured in that blast.

Yousef Abu al-Rish, the top official for the Gazan health ministry, said at a news conference on Tuesday night that following the Oct. 14 strike, the Israeli military had called the hospital director to tell him that it had been a warning to evacuate. The Israeli military said it was looking into the allegations.

The Israeli military said Wednesday that, after conducting a review, it had found that the explosion was caused by a malfunctioning rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group allied with Hamas, that hit the Ahly Arab hospital. The group has denied the claim.

At a news conference, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said that Islamic Jihad fired 10 rockets at 6:59 p.m local time. One of the rockets, he said, fell to earth prematurely, hitting a parking lot outside the hospital. He said that Israel had not fired any ordnance in the area of the hospital at that time.

He cited a photograph of the parking lot that was posted on social media on Wednesday morning that he said did not show the kind of impact that would have been caused by an Israeli missile. The New York Times has confirmed that the photo shows the aftermath of the explosion at the hospital, but has not verified the Israeli military’s claims about who was responsible.

Reporting was contributed byIyad Abuheweila, Aaron Boxerman, Patrick Kingsley, Christoph Koettl, Haley Willis and Peter Baker.

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