Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was serving as a refuge for thousands of people either receiving or giving treatment or seeking shelter from further attacks from Israel after Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza had been ordered to evacuate last week. The bombing reportedly took place around 7 p.m. local time.
If confirmed, the airstrike would be the deadliest single attack by Israel in five wars since 2008, the Associated Press reported. The number of casualties is expected to rise, officials said.
Footage of the strike, as verified by The Washington Post, captures a whirring sound followed by a loud explosion, appearing to confirm Palestinian officials’ account of it being an air strike. Israeli military leaders have denied responsibility for the bombing and have claimed that a misfired rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad hit the hospital, an allegation the group denies. Major news outlets say they have not yet finished independently analyzing the evidence surrounding the bombing.
The bombing comes as Gazan hospitals are already on the verge of collapse, with Palestinian officials saying that all hospitals across the region only have 24 hours of fuel left to keep the electricity on after Israeli forces cut off electricity, water, food, and humanitarian aid to the area. All of the hospitals in northern Gaza have been ordered to evacuate — a task that staff say is impossible without causing yet more death.
Meanwhile, at least one hospital in southern Gaza, Kuwaiti Hospital, has also been ordered to evacuate by Israeli military forces despite being in the region that Israel ordered Palestinians to evacuate to last week. The hospital’s director has said that the hospital will not evacuate because the staff will not leave their patients to die.
Al-Ahli is one of at least 11 hospitals in Gaza that have been reported to be damaged amid Israel’s siege of the region, according to The Washington Post.
Last week, Israel announced that it had already dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza in less than a week after declaring war.
The Palestinian foreign ministry has strongly condemned the attack, calling it a “cold-blooded massacre” that will “forever remain a stain on the conscience of humanity that has been witnessing the horrors committed against the Palestinian people without taking action to stop it” in a statement released Tuesday.
“Every rule of international law is being shredded as thousands are mercilessly massacred and millions of people are being stripped of their humanity, subjected to wanton killing, starvation and forced transfer, with no end in sight as Israeli occupying forces continue to pound the Gaza Strip, with thousands of missiles and bombs targeting civilian areas by air, land and sea and threats to commit mass murders,” the ministry continued.
Many world leaders and aid groups condemned the bombing. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning after the hospital bombing, and has called on Biden and other politicians to intervene immediately to stop the siege.
The UN Works and Relief Agency said that a school in the al-Maghazi refugee camp was also hit by an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday, where at least six people were killed. The school had served as a refuge for at least 4,000 people.
Abbas has canceled his appearance at a scheduled meeting with President Joe Biden that was slated to take place Wednesday during Biden’s high-stakes visit to Israel. The U.S. is planning to continue aiding Israel with a “steady flow of weapons,” Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
Progressive lawmakers have urged Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) said that the blame for the hospital bombing lies squarely with Biden and his administration’s opposition to calling for de-escalation.
“Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that. @POTUS this is what happens when you refuse to facilitate a ceasefire and help de-escalate,” Tlaib wrote on social media on Tuesday. “Your war and destruction only approach has opened my eyes and many Palestinian Americans and Muslims Americans like me. We will remember where you stood.”
Reporters in Palestine have said that the carnage is unthinkable, with body parts scattered across the area around the hospital and hundreds of people likely killed as soon as the strike hit.
“I cannot stomach the images coming out of that Gaza hospital — the burned bodies, the scattered limbs — they are the worst I’ve ever seen,” wrote Mohammed El-Kurd, editor for Mondoweiss and Palestinian correspondent for The Nation, on social media. “Surviving a genocide doesn’t give you the right to enact another. Zionism is death.”
Note: This is a developing story. A line and link have been added to update this piece with information noting the Israeli government’s claims about the hit to the hospital.
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