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Hamas fails to make case that Israel struck hospital

Jerusalem: Five days after Hamas accused Israel of bombing a hospital in Gaza City and killing hundreds of people, the armed Palestinian group has yet to produce or describe any evidence linking Israel to the strike, says it cannot find the munition that hit the site and has declined to provide detail to support its count of the casualties.

Within an hour of Tuesday night’s blast, the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry accused Israel of attacking al-Ahli hospital, a medical center in Gaza City where scores of families had been sheltering. The allegation was soon denied by Israel but quickly accepted and amplified by Arab leaders across the Middle East, setting off unrest throughout the region. The claim was widely cited by international news outlets before Israel issued its denial.

But in the days since, as new evidence contradicting the Hamas claim has emerged, Gazan authorities have changed their story about the blast. Spokespeople have released death tolls varying from 500 to 833, before settling on 471.

The Hamas-run health ministry has also declined to release further details about those 471 victims, and all traces of the munition have seemingly vanished from the site of the blast.

On Sunday, Hamas turned down requests by the Times to view any available evidence of the munition it said had struck the hospital, claiming it had disintegrated beyond recognition.

For Palestinians, the accusation of Israeli responsibility for the blast has cemented the perception that Israel’s response to the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on southern Israel on October 7 has been disproportionate and vengeful.

But to Israelis, the accusation that Israel hit the hospital is part of a grand deception aimed at undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s response to what officials say was the deadliest single attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Israel said the strike on the hospital parking lot was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket, citing intelligence intercepts and videos of the sky above Gaza at the time. The Israeli military said the rocket was fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group in Gaza allied with Hamas, before malfunctioning in midair and exploding when its propellant caught fire upon hitting the ground.

Israel has also turned down requests by the Times to provide logs of all its military activity in the area at the time of the strike and declined to specify the video on which it based its assessment.

(Published 23 October 2023, 03:08 IST)

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