Intel shows Israel ‘not responsible’ for Gaza hospital blast, White House says

National Security Council still collecting information but backs Israeli version of incident; UK prime minister says Hamas statements no more trustworthy than those of Kremlin

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the war between Israel and Hamas after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the war between Israel and Hamas after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The White House said Wednesday that a current intelligence assessment shows that Israel was “not responsible” for the explosion at a Gaza hospital, but that information was still being collected.

The assessment is “based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a social media post, following US President Joe Biden’s comment to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.”

Biden, in Tel Aviv earlier during a short visit to show solidarity to Israel after the devastating attacks by terror group Hamas that killed over 1,400 people on October 7, told reporters that “based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears as a result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.”

He said the assessment relied on “data I was shown by my Defense Department.”

Biden said there were “a lot of people out there” who were not sure what caused the blast, which sparked protests throughout the Middle East. “So we’ve gotta overcome a lot of things.”

There have been conflicting claims of who was responsible for the hospital blast. Officials in Gaza quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike. The Hamas-led Gaza health ministry said it killed hundreds of Palestinians.

Israel denied it was involved and released a flurry of video, audio, and other information that it said showed the blast was caused by a missile misfire by Islamic Jihad, another terror group operating in Gaza. Islamic Jihad and Hamas dismissed that claim.

Palestinians check the site of an explosion at al-Ahli hospital, in Gaza City, October 18, 2023. (Abed Khaled/AP)

The Tuesday night incident at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital came during the war that erupted when Hamas abruptly attacked Israel with thousands of rockets while over 2,500 of its gunmen launched a ground incursion through the border, slaughtering 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians. Thousands more were injured, and some 200 people were abducted and taken hostage in Gaza.

Since then, Hamas has continued to rain rockets on southern and central Israel, causing more deaths and injuries. Israel has responded with intensive strikes in the Gaza Strip and has announced its intention to topple Hamas, which rules the Strip, and eradicate it.

Roughly 2,800 Palestinians have been reported killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry. Another 1,200 people are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities said. Those numbers predate the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital. Israel says it is targeting areas where Hamas operates or hides and has warned Gazans to leave areas it intends to attack.

Responding to the hospital explosion, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Wednesday that Hamas’s claims should be treated with the same suspicion as statements from the Kremlin.

“We don’t treat what comes out of the Kremlin as the gospel truth, we should not do the same with Hamas,” Sunak told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

UK intelligence services are “rapidly analyzing the evidence to independently establish the facts” behind the devastating blast, he said.

Screen capture from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ) session in the House of Commons in London on October 18, 2023. (PRU / AFP)

Sunak urged lawmakers in the House of Commons not to “rush to judgment” about the incident. Calling it an “awful situation,” Sunak said: “Every member will know that the words we say here have an impact beyond this House.”

His remarks came as MPs panned elements of British media — including the BBC — for rushing to report the Hamas version of the explosion that blamed Israel.

Conservative MP Andrew Percy said the BBC took Hamas statements and “presented them as fact without challenge.”

Stephen Crabb, also a Conservative MP, said: “Sections of the British media were reporting as fact” that Israel was responsible, “relying on information supplied by terrorist-controlled Gaza.”

“The headlines have since been rewritten, but the outpouring of Jew-hate on social media overnight was vile,” Crabb said.

Jordanian security forces disperse the crowd of thousands of protesters trying to storm the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan in protest of the war in Gaza on October 18, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged people to “wait for the facts” on the cause of the explosion.

Cleverly planned to head to the region Wednesday, given warnings of a budding humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He is expected to visit Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

The IDF has accused global media outlets of accepting Hamas’s “lies” about the incident. Hamas swiftly claimed 500 people were killed in the blast and that a strike had directly hit the hospital, flattening the building. Israel has noted the group could not have tallied that number of deaths so quickly after the explosion.

Video of the aftermath of the incident showed that the explosion happened in the parking lot, scorching cars, but no large crater as would be expected from the kind of munitions Israel has been dropping on targets. Surrounding buildings also appeared to show no structural damage.

Protests swept through the region after the blast at the hospital, which had been treating wounded Palestinians and sheltering many more who were seeking a refuge from the fighting.

Hundreds of Palestinians flooded the streets of major West Bank cities including Ramallah. More people joined protests that erupted in Beirut, Lebanon, and Amman, Jordan, where an angry crowd gathered outside the Israeli embassy.

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