What we know and what we don’t know about the explosion at the Al-Alhi Arab hospital in Gaza

  • On Tuesday, October 17, a strong explosion occurred in the Al-Ahli Arab hospital complex, located in Gaza City. The Gaza Health Ministry (controlled by Hamas) puts the death toll at 471, but there is no independent confirmation of that number.
    Gaza's Health Minister accuses Israel of bombing the hospital. The Israeli Defense Forces say it was the result of a failed rocket attack by the Islamic Jihad (a militant group based in Gaza). Debris of the alleged rocket hasn't been found.
  • There are no current investigations held independently by official institutions. Experts are pointing at different versions of what might have happened. There is no conclusive evidence of what was the cause of the blast. 

*This article is constantly updated as we check new data. The most recent was on 26/10/2023 at 16:00 CET.

With what we know at this time, what can we say what exploded and who was responsible? Short answer: no. And, first of all, a warning

🔍5 narratives about the Gaza hospital explosion to be careful with

What you need to know:

  • The explosion happened in the Al-Ahli Arab hospital complex located in Gaza City.
  • There are no casualty figures provided by independent sources at this time.  The first estimated death toll given by the Gaza Ministry of Health on Tuesday was 500 and the one it offered in a Facebook post the following day was 471. 
  • Israel denied the death toll published by the Gaza Ministry of Health: “Hamas verified the reports and understood that it was a failure of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They then launched a global media campaign in which they even inflated the number of victims,” said Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.
  • On Thursday, October 19, the AFP agency published the statement of an unnamed senior European intelligence official , who stated that the death toll is "a few dozen" and ranges between 10 and 50 people.

What Israel and Gaza say:

  • After the explosion,several Media outlets cited statements by Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza (controlled by Hamas), saying that the attack was carried out by Israel.
  • Alray, the Palestinian news agency, reports a statement from Hamas (the organization that “de facto” controls the Gaza Strip) published at 11:12 on Wednesday, October 18, local time, in which the organization says that Israel is responsible for the attack: “The occupier [Israel] is directly responsible for the Baptist Hospital massacre [as the Al-Ahli Arab hospital is known] and its blatant lies will not deceive anyone.”

At first, many Media outlets published that the explosion was an attack by Israel and then changed their approach to say that both Hamas and Israel accuse each other of being responsible for the attack.

Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is located in the Zeitoun district, south of Gaza City. The hospital complex is administered by the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East and is known as the “Baptist Hospital” of Gaza. According to information from this congregation, the hospital has 80 beds.

What do we know about the death toll in the explosion at the Gaza hospital complex?

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, controlled by Hamas, released a first estimate, picked up by the media, shortly after the explosion. The Health Ministry said at least 500 people died in the Al-Ahli Arab hospital explosion. Israel denied that and said Hamas “has inflated the numbers.”

At 2:01 pm CET the Ministry of Health updated its estimate of victims. At this time, the Ministry of Health says that there are 471 deaths, 28 critical cases and 314 injuries of varying severity. Neither the initial figure nor this update have been confirmed by independent sources.

The World Health Organization published a statement on October 17 saying that the first reports “indicate hundreds of deaths and injuries,” without specifying a specific figure.

The Palestinian Red Crescent published a statement on Facebook on October 17 stating that the bombing caused “the death of hundreds of civilians, including women, children, health professionals and internally displaced people seeking safe refuge.”

On Thursday, October 19, the AFP agency published the statement of a senior European intelligence official, whose name was not given, who states that the death toll is "a few dozen" and ranges between 10 and 50 people.

The OSINT community: What is known about what happened according to the different recordings and satellite images?

In the first hours after the explosion, OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) experts released their first analyzes of the impact of the explosion on the Al-Ahli Arab hospital complex based on images available on social media, including the crater that appeared in the parking lot, where a group of people were gathered.

Regarding the origin and causes of the explosion, several members of the OSINT community have drawn up various hypotheses as different recordings have become known (from Al Jazeera's live broadcast to others with other camera points) and satellite images. although there is at this time no official and independent investigation to prove what happened.

  • The explosion was caused by a failed rocket launched from Gaza. This hypothesis arises from the analysis of the Al Jazeera transmission and the damage in the area, which would be compatible with fire damage and the absence of a large crater. According to CNN  and Wall Street Journal , the origin of the explosion is found in a rocket that broke up in the air and that could have been launched from the southwest of the hospital, although it cannot be determined exactly since no remains of the rocket have been found in the area. CNN points out that the launching area of ​​this rocket that Israel has identified coincides with a Hamas training camp with activity in recent days, although it has not been able to independently verify whether the rocket was launched from there. According to French intelligence, the damage in the area coincides with 5 kilo ammunition and would have no relation to the Israeli army.
  • The explosion was the result of an Israeli attack. According to Forensic Architecture, the crater in the parking lot would show the impact of an artillery projectile that would have been launched from the northeast of the hospital, an area occupied by Israeli forces. According to Eakad Facts, the damage in the area coincided with an air attack with JDMA munitions that would explode before hitting the ground, hence the absence of a large crater, but CNN experts assure that the damage in the area do not correspond to this ammunition.
  • The detonation of the rocket in the air is unrelated to the explosion at the hospital complex and the origin of the explosion is unknown. According to the OSINT communitGeoConfirmed (which initially spoke about the hypothesis of a split rocket fall) and expert Oliver Alexander, the Al Jazeera images show two events that are unrelated to each other. On the one hand, the rocket that detonates in the air would be an interceptor missile from Israel's defense system (known as the Iron Dome) that would have exploded on the Gaza border, a few kilometers away from the hospital complex. On the other hand, the explosion in the hospital complex could coincide with the trajectory of the launch of a rocket battery from Gaza moments before the explosion and which would have the same direction as the crater of the hospital complex, but since it is a failed rocket this element can not correctly indicating their place of origin, according to experts. Furthermore, the damage in the area would not be compatible with either an air attack or an Israeli artillery projectile, but would be compatible with the burning of the fuel from a failed rocket. Although the idea of ​​a damaged rocket is not ruled out, the lack of remains of the projectile and the conditions under which the explosion occurred cannot clearly determine its authorship at the moment.

Misinformation and context of some statements about what happened in the Gaza hospital

The hoaxes that we have debunked and what we know about content that has gone viral

Since the explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab hospital complex in Gaza City, hoaxes and content that we have identified, verified and compiled have spread through social media :

In addition, these are some of the contents of the first hours after the explosion in the hospital to which we have given context and other events that occurred and that we have documented.

A communicator close to the Netanyahu’s Government acknowledges that he deleted a tweet in which he stated that the attack on the hospital was done by Israel

"BREAKING: The Israeli Air Force bombed a Hamas military base inside a hospital in Gaza.” A message circulating on Twitter that Hananya Naftali, a social media figure involved in the communications of Benjamin Netanyahu's Israeli government, would have confirmed that the attack on the hospital in the Gaza Strip would be of Israeli origin. There is no trace of the tweet, but various users have shared screenshots in which the message could be seen.

In a subsequent tweet, posted at 11:58 pm (CET), he acknowledges that he “mistakenly shared a Reuters report that falsely stated Israel struck the hospital” in the Gaza Strip, and then explained that he decided to delete it.

Israel is presenting alleged evidence that it did not bomb the Gaza hospital

Israel has announced evidence, including videos, that it did not launch an attack on the Gaza hospital. For now, they have released a video in which a drone from the Israeli forces (IDF) would have recorded the before and after the impact on the hospital complex.

As explained in the video, the images would show the no crater at this site and some images of other craters supposedly caused by missiles from the Israeli Air Force ( IAF ).

Captures from the video released by the Israeli IDF

Although the images show cars damaged by the fire, there is no evidence as to what caused it at the time of this publication. It is unknown what type of projectile or device exploded in the hospital complex or whether it was of Palestinian or Israeli origin.

The Israeli army has also published the audio of an alleged conversation between two members of Hamas in which one of them says that the explosion appears to be caused by a failed missile from the Islamic Jihad, an organization located in the Gaza Strip, which is also participating in the attacks.

The director of Al-Ahli Arab hospital appeared in the media and accused Israel of causing the explosion [Warning: explicit images]

After the explosion, the director of Al-Ahli Arab hospital appeared before the media to talk about what happened. He accused Israel of "bombing hospitals" and "committing a brutal massacre" comparable to "past eras that tell stories about the brutality and fascism represented today by this occupation."

[Warning: the images in the tweet video are explicit and harsh]

"Why hasn't the hospital been evacuated by now?" he asked. "This enemy that threatens those hospitals before the eyes of the entire world, that did nothing or took deterrent measures, or took decisive action."

The WHO condemned the attack and affirms that this hospital is one of those that had received Israel's evacuation warning

"The evacuation order has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, the critical condition of many patients and the lack of ambulances, personnel, beds in the health system, and alternative shelters for the displaced," the organization indicated after the attack on the hospital.

WHO statement on October 14 condemning the evacuation order given by Israel to hospitals in Gaza.

The WHO delegation in the occupied Palestinian territories reported on Sunday, October 15, that since the start of the attacks, 111 medical centers in Gaza (48) and the West Bank (63) had been attacked and 12 medical workers had been killed.

In the first hours after the explosion, there were claims that the hospital had been "destroyed"

During the first moments following the explosion, we found the statement that the hospital had “been destroyed.” In some cases they are even accompanied by videos or images in which, in fact, what is observed is the damage in the parking area of ​​the hospital.

What we know about the damage suffered at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza

The images verified by open source investigation (OSINT) experts show that the buildings around the parking lot do not appear to have suffered structural damage according to the images recorded from various perspectives. The explosive device could have fallen in the parking lot of the complex, affecting the parked cars. The BBC has summarized in an image the main damage caused to the premises by the explosion in the Gaza hospital.

At we show you more images recorded the day after the explosion that show different points of the hospital complex and even the interior of the building.

Biden's visit to Israel, his meeting with Netanyahu and his statements about the explosion in the hospital complex

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, traveled to Israel on October 18 and held a bilateral meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit of the American president was marked by the explosion that occurred in the Gazan Al-Ahli Arab hospital.

Before the bilateral meeting with Netanyahu, Biden told the media that, from what he had seen, the explosion "look

After the meeting, a journalist asked the US president on what he based his assertion that Israel was not behind the explosion. Biden responded that it was the information that has been given to him by the Department of Defense.

White House Homeland Security spokesperson Adrienne Watson has indicated in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that according to her department's "current assessment," Israel would not be responsible for the explosion at the Gaza hospital.

During this trip an additional meeting was planned in Jordan with King Abdullah II, the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, and the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. It has finally been canceled due to a "mutual decision" between parties, according to AP. On this matter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did have a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas in the early hours of October 18.

Demonstrations took place in several parts of the Arab world during the early hours of October 18

The explosion in the hospital triggered demonstrations during the early hours of October 18 in various parts of the Arab world. According to Al Jazeera, in the West Bank there were marches of the population in several cities and there were clashes with Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, where protesters were dispersed with tear gas. According to Al Jazeera, in Amman, the capital of Jordan, protesters attempted to storm the Israeli embassy headquarters.

In Lebanon, hundreds of citizens gathered in various neighborhoods of Beirut, the capital. A group of people had to be dispersed from the vicinity of the United States embassy by security forces. There, Hezbollah has called for a "day of anger" asking the population to take to the streets to demonstrate and denounce what happened. Through a statement, reported by France 24, they ask "that it be an unprecedented day against the enemy and his crimes".

Concentrations have taken place in other parts of the Muslim world such as Tunisia, Libya, Kuwait, Morocco, Iraq, Turkey, Mauritania, Egypt, Yemen or Iran. In Madrid there was a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to condemn what happened.

First publication date of this article: 10/18/2023

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