Gaza Strip – Doctors in Gaza City working with fewer and fewer supplies performed surgeries on hospital floors, often without anesthesia, in a desperate attempt to save the seriously injured from a huge explosion which killed hundreds of Palestinians sheltering in another nearby hospital, while the Israeli bombing and siege of the territory continued.
The armed group Hamas attributed the explosion to an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli army blamed a failed rocket by other Palestinian militants. At least 500 people died, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Outrage over the hospital massacre spread across the Middle East as US President Joe Biden landed in Israel in hopes of preventing the spread of the war, which began when Hamas militants attacked cities and towns in southern Israel. on October 7.
Biden hugged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon arrival and later said the explosion did not appear to be Israel’s fault. “Based on what I’ve seen, it looks like it was the work of the other team, not you,” Biden told Netanyahu in statements to the press.
Shortly after Biden’s arrival, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel resumed after a 12-hour break. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza also continued on Wednesday, including on southern cities that Israel had described as “safe zones” for Palestinian civilians.
After the explosion at the hospital, Jordan canceled a meeting with Biden, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdul Fatah El Sisi. Now Biden will only visit Israel, according to a White House official.
The war between Israel and Hamas is “taking the region to the limit,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on state television.
The Israeli military held a press conference on Wednesday in which it laid out its arguments as to why it was not responsible for the explosion at Al Ahli hospital. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, chief spokesman for the armed forces, said his forces were not firing in that area.
Instead, Hagari said, Israeli radar confirmed a round of rockets launched by the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad from a nearby cemetery at that time, around 6:59 p.m. Independent videos from the scene showed one of the rockets had fallen from the sky, he said.
The ill-fated rocket landed in the parking lot outside the hospital. If it had been an airstrike, there would now be a crater at the site, he said, but instead the explosion came from the failed rocket’s head and unspent fuel from its propulsion system.
The Israeli military also released a recording it said was of two Hamas militants discussing the explosion, in which people said it was believed to be a failed Islamic Jihad launch and that the shrapnel appeared to be from the militia’s weapons. not Israelis.
Hagari said the country would share its information with British and American authorities and questioned the death toll given by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Since the start of the war, some 450 rockets fired at Israel by militant groups have landed in Gaza, according to the military.
Hamas called Tuesday’s explosion at the hospital a “horrible massacre,” and claimed it was caused by an Israeli attack.
Islamic Jihad rejected the Israeli claims and accused Israel of “trying to evade responsibility for the brutal massacre it committed.”
The group cited Israel’s order to evacuate Al Ahli and reports of a previous attack on the hospital complex as evidence that the hospital was an Israeli target. He also claimed that the magnitude of the explosion, the angle of fall of the bomb and the extent of the destruction pointed to Israel.
Tuesday night’s explosion at Al Ahli hospital left shocking scenes. Hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge in Al Ahli and other hospitals in Gaza City in the hope that they would be saved from shelling after Israel ordered all residents of the city and its surroundings to evacuate to the south of the territory.
Ghassan Abu Sitta, a plastic surgeon working in Al Ahli, said the hospital was full of displaced people seeking shelter from Israeli airstrikes when he heard a loud explosion and the roof of his operating room collapsed.
“The wounded started limping towards us,” he wrote on Facebook. She saw hundreds of dead and seriously injured.
“I put a tourniquet on the thigh of a man whose leg had been blown off and then went to treat a man with a penetrating wound to his neck,” he said.
Videos that The Associated Press confirmed came from the hospital showed the center’s grounds strewn with bodies, many of them young children, as flames engulfed the building. The grass around them was littered with blankets, backpacks, and other belongings. On Wednesday morning, the place was dotted with charred cars and the black remains of the fire covered the ground.
Hospital director Suhaila Tarazi said the scene after the explosion was “unlike anything I have ever seen or even imagined.”
“Our hospital is a place of love and reconciliation,” he said. “We are all losers in this war. And it must end.”
Ambulances and private vehicles took about 350 victims to the city’s main hospital, Al Shifa, which was already overwhelmed by wounded from other attacks, said its director, Mohammed Abu Selmia.
The victims arrived with horrific injuries, according to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. Some were decapitated, disemboweled or missing limbs.
Doctors at the overwhelmed hospital resorted to operating on the floor and in hallways, mostly without anesthesia.
“We need equipment, medicines, beds, anesthesia, we need everything,” said Abu Selmia. He warned that fuel for the hospital’s generators would run out within hours, forcing operations to be suspended entirely, if supplies did not arrive in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the United States was trying to convince Israel to allow the delivery of supplies to desperate civilians, humanitarian groups and hospitals in the tiny Gaza Strip, which has been under a complete blockade since last week’s bloody Hamas attack. Hundreds of thousands of increasingly desperate people tried to get water and bread.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken reached an agreement with Netanyahu to discuss the creation of a mechanism to bring aid to the territory of 2.3 million people. But as of Wednesday morning the aid still did not pass through the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection with Egypt, where trucks full of material have been waiting for days to cross.
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported at least 3,200 dead in the territory and 11,000 injured. Another 1,200 people are believed to be buried under rubble, dead or alive, in various parts of Gaza, according to health authorities.
In the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, Hamas fighters killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 200 hostage. Hamas fighters have launched rockets from Gaza every day since then, targeting cities across Israel.
Protests broke out across the Middle East. In Amman, a palace statement said Jordan’s king condemned “the massacre perpetrated by Israel against innocent civilians.”
The king “warned that this war, which has entered a dangerous phase, will plunge the region into an atrocious disaster,” the statement stated.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian urged Muslim countries to expel Israeli ambassadors and impose an oil embargo on Israel in protest of the explosion.
Israel, which has mobilized troops to the border, is expected to launch a ground invasion into Gaza. Meanwhile, it has continued bombing the territory, including in the southern half of the enclave, where the Israeli army told the Palestinians to go.
An attack on a three-story building in Gaza City on Wednesday killed 40 people and wounded 25 more, according to survivors. In the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, an airstrike hit a bakery and caused a huge fire that killed four bakers, according to witnesses at the scene.
The Israeli army said it was attacking Hamas hideouts, infrastructure and command centers, and accused the militants of hiding among civilians.
Aid workers warned that the situation was becoming dangerous.
“It’s not just that people are hungry, people are at risk of famine,” said Alia Zaki, spokesperson for the World Food Programme. “There is a serious shortage of basic products that will run out in a matter of days.”