ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Israel accuses global media of parroting Hamas's allegations

IDF presents evidence misfired Gazan rocket caused hospital blast, slams Hamas ‘lies’

Military airs intercepted call in which Hamas members discuss failed Islamic Jihad launch that landed in Al-Ahli parking lot, says lack of crater proves not caused by IDF ordnance

The scorched parking lot of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City after an overnight blast there, October 18, 2023. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
The scorched parking lot of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City after an overnight blast there, October 18, 2023. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israel Defense Forces presented further evidence Wednesday morning backing up its assertion that a deadly explosion in the parking lot of a Gazan hospital the previous evening was caused by a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists, and not by an Israeli airstrike.

The IDF accused global media outlets of accepting Hamas’s “lies” about the incident.

The military presented an intercepted conversation between Hamas officials saying the explosion was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad projectile that fell short, and showed that the parking lot didn’t feature a crater in the ground and no structural damage was dealt to nearby buildings — both of which would typically have been left by an IDF strike.

The blast, which according to Hamas health officials caused hundreds of deaths, was initially claimed to have occurred at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital itself, but footage from Wednesday morning showed it happened in the hospital’s parking lot, with none of the surrounding buildings sustaining significant structural damage.

Palestinians and much of the Arab world quickly blamed Israel, saying it had struck the medical facility and that hundreds had been killed, and Jerusalem was swiftly condemned by Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others. The countries haven’t provided evidence for their claim that the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza initially said at least 500 people were killed, AP reported, a figure that was later amended to between 200 and 300, as reported by AFP.

Terror group Hamas called the blast “a war crime,” and the World Health Organization also issued a rebuke.

After initially saying it was looking into the matter, the IDF declared it had not been involved, had not been operating in the area at the time of the blast, and that “an analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit.”

The explosion happened at 6:59 p.m. on Tuesday, shortly after rocket alarms blared in southern and central Israel.

In a briefing Wednesday morning, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari accused Hamas of purposely misleading international media outlets by blaming Israel for the incident.

Hagari, in a briefing in English to international media, read out a translated transcript of an intercepted call between two Hamas officials, in which they talk about the failed rocket, launched by the smaller Gazan terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that hit the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital’s parking lot, following a barrage launched from a nearby cemetery.

The IDF then released a recording of the call, with a translation into English.

“I am telling you this is the first time we see a missile like this falling, and so that’s why we are saying (the rocket) belongs to Palestinian Islamic Jihad…,” says one of the alleged Hamas members.

“It’s from us?'” asks the second.

“It looks like it…,” replies the first. “They are saying that the shrapnel from the missile is local shrapnel and not like Israeli shrapnel.”

“It couldn’t have found another place to explode?” asks the second.

“They shot it from the cemetery behind the hospital,” says the first, “and it misfired and fell on them.”

Charged Hagari: “According to our intelligence, Hamas checked the reports, understood it was an Islamic Jihad rocket that had misfired, and decided to launch a global media campaign to hide what really happened.”

“They went as far as to inflate the number of casualties,” he said.

Hagari said Hamas “understood with absolute certainty that it was a rocket misfired by Islamic Jihad that damaged the hospital.

“Analysis of our aerial footage confirms that there was no direct hit of the hospital itself. The only location damaged is outside the hospital in the parking lot, where we can see signs of burning, no cratering and no structural damage to nearby buildings,” he said.

People search through debris outside the site of the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza on October 18, 2023 in the aftermath of a blast there. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Showing a picture of the hospital’s scorched parking lot, Hagari said the damage to the parking lot was caused by the rocket impact and due to the large amount of rocket fuel that was still in the projectile as it fell short.

He said that had it been an Israeli airstrike, “we would have seen craters and structural damage to the building, both of which were not identified in this incident.”

The IDF also published aerial images and drone footage backing up its claims, showing a burning parking lot and shrapnel-pocked roofs that wouldn’t have been left by IDF air-to-ground ordnance.

The drone footage also points to shrapnel that landed on the roof of the nearby buildings, which remain largely intact.

Hagari went on to accuse global media outlets of uncritically amplifying Hamas’s accusation of Israel over the explosion, as well as accepting Hamas’s claimed death toll at face value, though the terror group could not have tallied the deaths of some 500 people so quickly after the blast.

“Many media outlets immediately reported the unverified claims by Hamas, the lies by Hamas,” he said. “I want to make something clear: It is impossible to know what happened as quickly as Hamas claimed it knew.”

The military said it had cross-checked all its information as part of a “professional review based on intelligence, operational systems and aerial footage,” adding that it had shared the findings with allies, chief among them the United States.

Israel’s Channel 12 later published footage from its own cameras that showed the rockets being launched from Gaza before the explosion.

US President Joe Biden publicly endorsed Israel’s version of events during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday in Israel.

“I am deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday. And based on what I’ve seen, it appears it was done by the other team, and not you,” he said.

The Israeli military has said about 450 of the thousands of rockets fired by Gaza-based terror organizations at Israel have fallen short inside Gaza since the beginning of the war on October 7, “endangering and harming the lives of Gazan residents.”

Several videos appear to show the moment the rocket fell short and exploded inside the Palestinian enclave on Tuesday.

One video, taken from Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara, appeared to match footage taken by Al Jazeera, which also showed a rocket misfire land inside Gaza.

Another video, published by Palestinian media outlets, showed the blast near the Ahli Arab Hospital.

The Al Jazeera footage was geolocated by experts on X to the hospital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in which he said: “So the whole world knows: The barbaric terrorists in Gaza are the ones who attacked the Gaza hospital, not the IDF. Those who cruelly murdered our children murder their children as well.”

President Isaac Herzog called accusations that Israel had struck the hospital “a blood libel.”

“An Islamic Jihad missile has killed many Palestinians at a Gazan hospital — a place where lives should be saved,” Herzog tweeted. “Shame on the media who swallow the lies of Hamas and Islamic Jihad — broadcasting a 21st-century blood libel around the globe. Shame on the vile terrorists in Gaza who willfully spill the blood of the innocent.”

Palestinians rally in solidarity with the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 17, 2023 (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Both before and after Israel denied involvement, Arab and Muslim countries accused Israel of carrying out an attack on the hospital. They did not amend those statements.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning after what he called the “hospital massacre.”

Late Tuesday, Jordan said a summit between Biden and King Abdullah, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Abbas in Amman on Wednesday was canceled. The White House later confirmed the cancelation.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets throughout the West Bank to protest the hospital explosion. In Ramallah, videos show protesters chanting, “The people want the fall of the president,” in protest against Abbas’s perceived inaction in the face of the Gaza war.

Hospitals and their grounds have been seen as safe havens for Gazans made homeless or displaced by the bombing, as they have been relatively spared from strikes. The IDF says it does not target hospitals.

Israel has accused Islamic Jihad before of causing the deaths of Palestinians with rockets that fall short inside Gaza.

Israel is 11 days into a war with Hamas following the terror group’s October 7 massacre, which saw at least 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing over 1,400 people and seizing at least 199 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, roughly 3,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza, and another 1,200 people are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead. Those numbers predate the explosion near the Al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday. Israel has charged that some of the Palestinian fatalities were caused by misfired rockets that landed inside Gaza. Israel has also said its forces killed about 1,500 terrorists in its territory following the mass infiltration on October 7.

Jacob Magid, Lazar Berman and agencies contributed to this report.

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