A devastating explosion at a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday has left hundreds dead and inflamed tensions amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each side traded accusations as the region braced for escalating violence.
Health Ministry Reports Hundreds Killed in Al Ahli Arab Hospital Blast
Health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra stated Wednesday that initial estimates suggest around 500 people died in the explosion that reduced much of the Al Ahli Arab hospital to rubble. Rescue crews continued recovering bodies from the debris.
The Gaza civil defence chief’s early death toll estimate was around 300 killed. But the catastrophic damage left authorities still assessing the full scope. With hundreds dead, it marks one of the conflict’s deadliest single incidents.
Israel and Palestine Trade Blame as Biden Plans Visit
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly pinned blame on Gaza militants, saying “barbaric terrorists” and not Israel were responsible. Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour accused Netanyahu of lying to cover up Israeli culpability.
IDF Spokesperson RAdm. Daniel Hagari confirms: Islamic Jihad is responsible for the rocket that hit the hospital in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/Tssfl5M7Ew
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 17, 2023
The disputed accounts further stoked tensions before a planned visit by US President Joe Biden to show support for Israel. Securing a ceasefire amid the bloodshed will be a key aim as violence threatens to spiral.
Blast Prompts Criticism and Protests in Region
The hospital attack triggered widespread criticism in the Arab world. Protesters condemned Israel and the US at embassies from Turkey to Lebanon. The White House said Biden expressed outrage at the loss of life.
#WATCH | On Israeli PM Netanyahu’s statement that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the Gaza hospital attack, Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour says “He is a liar. His digital spokesperson tweeted that Israel did the hit thinking that there was a base for Hamas… pic.twitter.com/Tqs19lc2VD
— ANI (@ANI) October 18, 2023
Jordan canceled a summit with Biden and regional leaders due to the crisis. In the West Bank, Palestinian security forces cracked down on rock-throwing demonstrators angry at President Abbas.
Militant group Hezbollah called for “unprecedented anger” against Israel and Biden’s visit. The US now faces an even tougher task preventing further escalation.