IDF says it is probing demolition of campus in Gaza last week, after US voiced ire

Military says it is looking into approval process for controlled explosion at Israa University; initial findings say Hamas used grounds to conduct attacks on troops

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Before and after photos of Israa University in Gaza that was blown up by the IDF on January 17, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Before and after photos of Israa University in Gaza that was blown up by the IDF on January 17, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it is probing the approval process of a controlled explosion of a university campus in the Gaza Strip last week.

Footage widely shared on social media showed a massive blast at Israa University, prompting US President Joe Biden’s administration to ask Israel for clarification.

In response to a query on the matter, the IDF said “the collapse of the building and the approval process for the explosion are being investigated by the IDF.”

It said that the investigation would be presented to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi in the coming days.

According to the army’s initial probe, the university building and the surrounding area had been used by Hamas “for military activity against our forces,” the IDF added.

After announcing that the administration inquired about the matter Thursday, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that although he did not have enough information to comment further, he noted that Hamas regularly uses civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

While initially giving unprecedented support to Israel, there has been growing daylight between Jerusalem and Washington over the war in Gaza, launched in response to the Hamas-led onslaught on October 7, which killed some 1,200 people and saw 253 kidnapped to the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US President Joe Biden’s vision for a postwar Gaza, which would be reunited politically with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority’s rule — after the PA undergoes reforms — as part of a broader diplomatic initiative aimed at an eventual two-state solution and an expanded Abraham Accords.

While Netanyahu has spoken out against establishing a Palestinian state, he has offered few details on his alternative vision for Gaza while blocking the cabinet from holding discussions on the matter, knowing that it risks collapsing his hardline coalition.

Netanyahu reportedly rejected a US proposal, presented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he visited earlier this month, that would have seen Saudi Arabia help with the reconstruction of Gaza along with several other Arab countries in addition to agreeing to normalize ties with Israel, on the condition that Jerusalem agree to take steps to create a pathway to an eventual Palestinian state.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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