An explosion at a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday reportedly killed hundreds of people, with the Palestinian Health Ministry blaming an Israeli airstrike and Israel denying it, saying Palestinian rockets hit the hospital—as Israel hits targets in Gaza in the wake of Hamas’ deadly offensive against Israel just over a week ago.
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces claimed the hospital was hit in a “failed shooting” by Gaza-based militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, during an “enemy rocket barrage” aimed at Israel that passed over the hospital at the time the facility was struck.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu also claimed the airstrike was the result of a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, citing “intelligence from multiple sources.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry, meanwhile, alleges the hospital was hit by an Israeli airstrike, part of a dayslong bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.
The explosion at Gaza’s Ahli Arab Hospital killed at least 200 people, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson initially told the New York Times, saying the death toll from the strike is likely to increase.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—a Hamas rival who runs the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank but not the Gaza Strip—canceled a planned trip with President Joe Biden in Jordan after the hospital explosion, the Associated Press reported. Biden was scheduled to meet with Abbas as part of a Middle East trip that also includes a visit to Israel.
The hospital explosion came amid an Israeli counter-offensive in the 10 days since Hamas launched an assault on Israel, killing more than 1,400 Israeli citizens and taking civilian hostages. Israel’s military last week gave more than one million residents of densely populated Gaza City 24 hours to evacuate to the Gaza Strip’s southern border, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration of war against Hamas. Netanyahu says Israel’s mission in the war is to “destroy” the militant group that rules Gaza—the United Nations, however, cautioned such a swift evacuation would be “impossible” without “devastating humanitarian consequences.”
The UN’s Palestinian refugee agency also warned on Tuesday that fuel reserves at Gaza hospitals are running precariously low, with just another 24 hours of energy from generators left, putting the “lives of thousands of patients at serious risk.” Gaza’s lone power plant had shut down late last week after Israeli officials cut energy—and food—to the territory as part of its “complete siege” on Gaza. Due to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, UN authorities also warned they would not be able to continue providing humanitarian aid into Gaza, though Israel reportedly agreed to let water and medicine into the territory through Egypt, following pleas from the U.S.
Hamas’ attack—the deadliest on Israel in years, prompting a major retaliation from Israel’s military—has been widely condemned by Western officials, including Biden, who called the attack “horrific” and vowed to “stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support” to Israel.