500 reported killed in Gaza hospital blast
Images circulating on social media show what is purported to be the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza engulfed in flames following what was said to be an Israeli airstrike.

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza, Palestine (AP)—The Gaza Health Ministry said an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday hit a Gaza City hospital packed with wounded and other Palestinians seeking shelter, killing hundreds instantly.

A top Netanyahu aide, Hananya Naftali, initially posted a statement on Twitter (now X) claiming responsibility for the attack on the hospital, but the Israeli Defense Forces subsequently said it was a malfunctioning rocket fired by Islamic Jihad that actually crash-landed at the facility and caused the explosion, not an Israeli bomb.

Investigations continued into Wednesday, with Hamas and Israel continuing to blame each other for the disaster.

The health ministry said at least 500 people had been killed. Photos purportedly from al-Ahli Hospital shared widely on social video showed fire engulfing the building, widespread damage, and bodies scattered in the wreckage.

Several hospitals in Gaza City have become refuges for hundreds of people, hoping they would be spared bombardment after Israel ordered all residents of the city and surrounding areas to evacuate to the southern Gaza Strip.

In southern Gaza, meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes killed dozens of civilians and at least one senior Hamas figure Tuesday. With Israel barring entry of water, fuel, and food into Gaza since Hamas’ attack last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed to have secured an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss creating a mechanism for allowing aid for Gaza’s 2.3 million people to get into the territory.

Still, as of late Tuesday, there was no deal in place. Tzahi Hanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council, suggested entry of aid depended on the return of hostages held by Hamas.

“The return of the hostages, which is sacred in our eyes, is a key component in any humanitarian efforts,” he told reporters, without elaborating whether Israel was demanding the release of all of the roughly 200 people Hamas abducted before allowing supplies in.

U.S. President Joe Biden is heading to the region Wednesday, but even before he can arrive, Israel’s war against Palestine is threatening to engulf the region. Violence flared Tuesday along Israel’s border with Lebanon, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Israel’s continuing offensive in Gaza could cause a violent reaction across the region.

With tens of thousands of troops massed along the border, Israel has been expected to launch a ground invasion into Gaza—but plans remained uncertain. “We are preparing for the next stages of war,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said. “We haven’t said what they will be. Everybody’s talking about a ground offensive. It might be something different.”

In Gaza, dozens of injured were rushed to other hospitals after heavy attacks outside the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, residents reported. An Associated Press reporter saw around 50 bodies brought to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Family members came to claim the bodies, wrapped in white bedsheets, some soaked in blood.

An airstrike in Deir al Balah reduced a house to rubble, killing a man and 11 women and children inside and in a neighboring house, some of whom had evacuated from Gaza City. Witnesses said there was no warning before the strike.

Shelling from Israeli tanks hit a U.N. school in central Gaza where 4,000 Palestinians had taken refuge, killing six people and wounding dozens, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency said. At least 24 U.N. installations have been hit in the past week, killing at least 14 of the agency’s staff.

The Israeli military claims it is targeting Hamas hideouts, infrastructure, and command centers, but civilian casualties continue to mount.

Images circulating on social media show what is purported to be the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza engulfed in flames following what was said to be an Israeli airstrike.

A barrage of strikes crashed into the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, leveling an entire block of homes and causing dozens of casualties among families inside, residents said. Among those killed was one of Hamas’ top military commanders, Ayman Nofal, the group’s military wing said—the most high-profile militant known to have been killed so far in the war.

Nofal, formerly the intelligence chief of Hamas’ armed wing, was in charge of Hamas militant activities in the central Gaza Strip, including coordinating activities with other militant groups.

Netanyahu sought to put the blame on Hamas for Israel’s retaliatory attacks and the rising civilian deaths in Gaza. “Not only is it targeting and murdering civilians with unprecedented savagery, it’s hiding behind civilians,” he said.

In Gaza City, Israeli airstrikes also hit the house of Hamas’ top political official, Ismail Haniyeh, killing at least 14 people. Haniyeh is based in Doha, Qatar, but his family lives in Gaza City. The Hamas media office did not immediately identify those killed.

Israel sealed off Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and resulted in some 200 taken captive into Gaza. Hamas militants in Gaza have launched rockets every day since, aiming at cities across Israel.

Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at least 2,778 people and wounded 9,700, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Nearly two-thirds of those killed were children, a ministry official said.

Another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities said.

More than 1 million Palestinians have fled their homes—roughly half of Gaza’s population—and 60% are now in the approximately 14-kilometer (8-mile) long area south of the evacuation zone, the U.N. said.

Aid workers warned that the territory was near complete collapse. Hospitals not already bombed are on the verge of losing electricity, threatening the lives of thousands of patients, and hundreds of thousands of people are searching for bread and water.

The U.N. agency for Palestinians said more than 400,000 displaced people are crowded into schools and other facilities in the south. The agency said it has only 1 liter of water a day for each of its staff members trapped in the territory.

Israel opened a water line into the south for three hours that benefitted only 14% of Gaza’s population, the U.N. said.

At the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt, truckloads of aid were waiting to enter. The World Food Program said that it had more than 300 tons of food waiting to cross into Gaza. Civilians with foreign citizenship—many of them Palestinians with dual nationalities—also waited in Rafah, desperate to get out.

“We come to the border crossing hoping that it will open, but so far there is no information,” said Jameel Abdullah, a Swedish citizen.

Repeated reports that an opening was imminent have proven false as negotiations continued to grind on, including the U.S., Israel, and Egypt.

Blinken arrived in Israel last Thursday with a full-throated message of unequivocal U.S. backing for Israel in its campaign, and Biden’s visit to Israel Wednesday will signal the White House’s ongoing support for its ally.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited in accordance with subsequent developments in the story.


Associated Press
Associated Press

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