October 23, 2023
On Tuesday, some media outlets around the world spread a vicious lie by the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry that an Israeli airstrike killed hundreds of Palestinians at a hospital in Gaza City.
The lie started after an explosion occurred at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, also referred to as the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, in Gaza City, where apparently many Palestinians had taken refuge amid the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel.
In order to defend itself after the October 7 Hamas terror attacks that killed more than 1,210 Israelis and resulted in 137 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. These strikes target rocket launch sites, terror leaders, and infrastructure that Hamas has used to target Israel. Prior to an expected ground operation in Gaza, Israel had called for the evacuation of Palestinian civilians from the northern Gaza Strip.
Here is what we know about the situation, how the media is reporting on it, and past incidents of rocket misfires by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
What happened: The explosion at the hospital occurred at the same time as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza fired heavy barrages of rockets at southern and central Israel. Rocket sirens sounded in several major cities including Rishon Letzion, Petach Tikvah, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, and Bat Yam.
Further, Hamas said that it targeted the northern Israeli city of Haifa with a long-range R160 rocket.
What the IDF has confirmed: A misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket caused the deadly blast in the Gaza hospital.
In a statement, the IDF says that “from an analysis of the IDF’s operational systems, an enemy rocket barrage was carried out towards Israel, which passed in the vicinity of the hospital, when it was hit.”
“According to intelligence information, from several sources we have, the PIJ organization is responsible for the failed [rocket] fire that hit the hospital,” the IDF adds.
The IDF said it did not conduct any operations in the area at the time of the impact.
It further said that terror organizations deliberately place their launching pits and posts within civilian areas, placing civilians directly under the line of fire, making them especially vulnerable to misfires.
“This has been a trend over the last few rounds of conflict, where PIJ misfires have posed an extreme danger to civilians in Gaza.”
Since the beginning of the war, approximately 450 rockets launched toward Israel have fallen within Gaza, endangering the lives of Palestinians in Gaza.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the IDF, also cited a photo of the parking lot that was posted on social media that said did not show the type of crater that would have been caused by an Israeli bomb. Instead, the photo show the effects of a fire, which would be caused by rocket fuel.
Additionally, a conversation between two Hamas terrorists, intercepted by the IDF, confirms that a misfired rocket by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, hit the hospital.
What the U.S. and allies have confirmed: U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed this assessment in a speech in Tel Aviv. The White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson further said "While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts, and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday."
U.S. intelligence agencies assessed that between 100 to 300 people were killed.
Similarly, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that his government believes the explosion at the hospital was "likely caused by a missile or part of one" fired "from within Gaza towards Israel."
The British leader added that this was based on "the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence experts."
How Israel defends against terrorists hiding among civilian populations: Israel’s military operations in Gaza are focused and deliberate, only targeting terrorists, their weapons stockpiles and facilities, and their infrastructure. Civilian deaths are tragedies, no matter the location. Civilian casualties are sometimes the result of terror groups’ use of human shields, or civilians ignoring Israeli calls for the evacuation of targeted sites.
Hamas stores weapons in residential areas, even schools and hospitals, firing rockets from densely populated areas. The Iran-backed group operates command centers in civilian areas, and sometimes uses civilian clothing to blend in. Such practices make it challenging for the Israeli military to target legitimate military assets without risking civilian casualties.
The media gets it wrong…again: Headlines of the explosion at the Gaza hospital quickly put the onus on Israel. For example, The New York Times led with the headline on its website's front page, "Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say.” This headline takes the claims by the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry at face value before the Israeli military or government was able to investigate and provide evidence. Eventually, The New York Times adjusted its headline to remove blame for Israel.
On October 23, The New York Times published an editor's note, acknowledging that its coverage of the incident should have been more rigorous. It said its initial reports “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified."
“The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”
Meanwhile, CNN also ran with the headline on its website “Palestinian officials say 200-300 people may have been killed in an Israeli strike on hospital” without any evidence, other than from the Hamas-affiliated officials in Gaza, that it was an Israeli airstrike.
World leaders spread the lie: Without evidence other than what was reported by the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry, some international leaders and organizations were quick to condemn Israel and blame it for the strike.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the incident a “hospital massacre” and ordered three days of public mourning.
Egypt also blamed Israel for the explosion, saying that it was a “deliberate bombing of civilians” and called on Israel to “immediately stop policies of collective punishment.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the purported strike “the latest example devoid of the most basic human values.”
The World Health Organization put out a statement condemning the attack and criticized Israel’s evacuation order of the northern Gaza Strip.
“The hospital was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah also blamed Israel for the explosion.
Abdullah considers this a “heinous war crime that cannot be tolerated. Israel must immediately stop its brutal aggression against Gaza, which is inconsistent with humanitarian and moral values and constitutes a flagrant violation of the rules of international humanitarian law,” said a statement from Jordan’s Royal Court.
Additionally, a summit scheduled to take place during U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday has been canceled. Abbas canceled his participation in the summit in protest over the hospital explosion.
An antisemitic blood libel: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called the media accusations that Israel hit a hospital in Gaza a “blood libel.”
“An Islamic Jihad missile has killed many Palestinians at a Gazan hospital — a place where lives should be saved,” Herzog wrote on X.
“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 wilfully spill the blood of the innocent,” he said.
Not the first time Gazan terrorists have killed Palestinians with rocket fire: There have been a number of examples in past conflicts of misfired Hamas rockets striking Palestinian civilian areas in the Gaza Strip. During the August 2022 flareup between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, more than one-fifth of the 1,000 rockets fired toward Israel failed and landed in Gaza, where they caused one-third of the 44 deaths recorded.
Call a Terrorist a Terrorist
Similarly, during the May 2021 Gaza conflict, some 15 percent of all rockets launched by Palestinian terror groups fell short inside Gaza.
Hamas primarily uses a variety of locally manufactured rockets as well as munitions and rocket components that are smuggled in. These rockets are often relatively simple in design and have been known by names like Qassam rockets, Grad rockets, and other improvised models. The range and payload capacity of these rockets can vary, but they are generally less advanced than the missile systems used by well-equipped national armies and often lack any guidance system.
Unlike Hamas, which fires rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas, Israel employs advanced technology and precision-guided munitions to target military assets while minimizing collateral damage and the risk to civilians.