(CTN NEWS) – A day following a devastating explosion that tore through Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza, triggering protests in the region, the United States has released its own assessment regarding the cause of the destruction.
Israel has presented evidence suggesting that a misfire by the militant group Islamic Jihad was responsible for the blast.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden supported this explanation, citing US intelligence.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council later stated that their analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts, and open-source information indicated that Israel is not to blame.
However, Palestinian officials and several Arab leaders continue to accuse Israel of targeting the hospital during its ongoing airstrikes in Gaza.
Islamic Jihad, a rival group to Hamas, has denied any involvement in the incident.
It is estimated that hundreds of people lost their lives in the attack, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza.
Images of the devastating aftermath have led to protests throughout the region.
Here is what we currently know and what remains uncertain.
What Happened At The Hospital?
CNN has geolocated a video capturing the moment of the explosion at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital.
In the video, the sky suddenly lights up as a powerful explosion erupts on the hospital premises, unleashing a towering plume of fire and smoke into the atmosphere.
Within the hospital building, chaos ensues. Dr. Fadel Na’eem, the head of the orthopedic department, recounts performing surgery when a thunderous blast rocked the hospital.
Panic spread rapidly as hospital staff rushed into the operating room, shouting for assistance and reporting numerous casualties.
In a recorded video statement to CNN, Dr. Na’eem expressed his astonishment, saying, “I had just completed one surgery, and suddenly, we heard a massive explosion.
We initially believed it was outside the hospital because we never anticipated that they would target the hospital.”
After leaving the theater, Dr. Na’eem encountered a scene of immense horror. He described it as follows: “Many people were beheaded, and there was a massive fire everywhere.”
The medical team worked tirelessly to attend to the wounded and those on the brink of death, but the scale of the devastation was simply overwhelming.
The number of casualties was so substantial that their efforts seemed futile.
While it is challenging to independently verify the exact number of casualties resulting from the explosion, the tragedy was starkly evident in images circulating on social media.
Photographs and videos depicted young children, covered in dust, being rushed for medical care to treat their injuries. Lifeless bodies were scattered on the ground.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported a death toll exceeding 400.
What The Israelis & Palestinians Have Said
On Tuesday evening, Palestinian officials placed blame on Israel for the hospital attack.
However, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Jonathan Conricus stated on Wednesday that the initial evidence strongly suggests that the incident could not have been caused by an Israeli bomb.
Israel’s intelligence indicates that a “failed rocket launch” by the Islamist militant group, the Islamic Jihad, was responsible for the explosion.
The Islamic Jihad movement firmly rejected these allegations as “false and baseless.”
In an additional development, the IDF released audio recordings that purportedly captured a conversation between two Hamas operatives discussing a rocket launch near the hospital, particularly from a cemetery.
According to the IDF’s translation of the conversation, one of the alleged operatives mentioned, “They are saying that the shrapnel of the missile is local shrapnel and not like the Israeli shrapnel.”
On Tuesday, the IDF presented imagery it claims as evidence that the hospital’s destruction could not have resulted from an airstrike.
They pointed to the absence of visible craters or significant damage to buildings that would typically occur from such an attack.
Additionally, an official video shared on the State of Israel’s social media account on Tuesday night was presented as proof that the hospital was hit by outgoing rocket fire from militants.
However, discrepancies arose regarding the timestamp on the video, which did not align with the explosion’s actual timing. As a result, the tweet was later edited to remove the video.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lior Haiat, informed CNN that they initially believed the video was from an official source, but upon further investigation, they learned it had been sourced from elsewhere.
Consequently, the video was taken down.
On Wednesday, officials in Gaza asserted that the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital sustained damage from two Israeli shells four days prior, following which the IDF supposedly warned the hospital’s management to evacuate.
CNN has reached out to the IDF for their response to this claim.
What US Intelligence Suggests
The US government’s current assessment, as conveyed by the US National Security Council (NSC), absolves Israel of responsibility for the hospital explosion.
During a significant visit to Israel, President Biden informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the damage at the hospital “appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.”
However, he acknowledged that there are uncertainties surrounding the incident that need to be addressed.
On Wednesday, the NSC further emphasized its assessment, stating that intelligence indicates some Palestinian militants in Gaza believed the explosion resulted from an accidental rocket or missile launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and they were still investigating the incident.
US intelligence has gathered initial evidence supporting the theory that the hospital strike resulted from a rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
This evidence includes blast analysis suggesting a ground explosion rather than an airstrike, with no single crater indicating a bomb.
Instead, extensive fire damage and scattered debris consistent with an explosion originating from ground level were observed, according to sources.
It’s important to note that the blast analysis is just one aspect under scrutiny by the intelligence community, which has intensified its intelligence collection efforts in the region.
How Has The World Reacted?
Numerous countries have expressed shock and sorrow over the loss of life at the hospital and have called for caution in assigning blame until a thorough investigation clarifies the circumstances.
The United Nations has emphasized the need for a meticulous inquiry, recognizing that until independent investigators have the opportunity to comprehensively examine the incident, the exact cause of the blast remains uncertain.
Israel has shared intelligence related to the Gaza hospital explosion with the United States, as confirmed by an Israeli official and another source with knowledge of the matter.
Conversely, several Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq, have issued statements condemning Israel and accusing its military of being responsible for the hospital bombing.
Simultaneously, widespread protests have erupted in various locations, with demonstrators in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Tunisia rallying while chanting anti-Israel slogans.
Protests have also rocked the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
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