Palestinian health officials said on Tuesday that hundreds of people were killed by a massive blast at a hospital in Gaza City, where thousands of displaced people had sought shelter from the Israeli bombardment.
The blast occurred at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, also known as the Baptist Hospital, around 7:30 p.m. local time, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The hospital, which is run by the Anglican Church, was hit without any prior warning, the ministry said.
The ministry said that at least 500 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured by the explosion, which caused a huge fire and collapsed several floors of the building. Many victims were still under the rubble, it added.
The hospital was packed with people who had been injured in previous Israeli strikes, as well as civilians who had fled their homes in northern Gaza after Israel ordered them to evacuate ahead of a possible ground invasion.
“We were operating in the hospital, there was a strong explosion, and the ceiling fell on the operating room. This is a massacre,” said Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah, who was working at the hospital when the blast occurred.
“Nothing justifies this shocking attack on a hospital and its many patients and health workers, as well as the people who sought shelter there. Hospitals are not a target. This bloodshed must stop. Enough is enough,” he said.
Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the attack, saying that it was part of its ongoing offensive on Gaza, which has killed at least 1,900 Palestinians and wounded more than 7,600 since October 7.
Israel denied any involvement in the hospital attack, saying that it was caused by a “failed rocket launch” by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the two main Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.
“We did not strike that hospital, and we have intelligence that suggests that it was a failed rocket launch by Hamas or Islamic Jihad,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
He said that Israel does not intentionally target any sensitive facilities or civilians, and that it regrets any harm caused by Hamas or Islamic Jihad rockets.
However, some eyewitnesses and experts disputed Israel’s claim, saying that the scale and impact of the blast indicated that it was not caused by a Palestinian rocket.
“This was not a rocket. This was a huge bomb that destroyed the whole hospital. It was like an earthquake,” said Mohammed al-Masri, a journalist who was near the hospital when the blast occurred.
Dr. Ted Postol, a professor of science, technology and international security at MIT, analyzed videos and images of the blast and concluded that it was “very unlikely” that it was caused by a Palestinian rocket.
“The blast pattern and the damage to the building are consistent with a large explosive device detonated near or inside the hospital,” he told The Guardian. “A Palestinian rocket would have left a much smaller crater and would have caused less damage.”
The blast at the hospital came amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, which began on October 7 when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 1,300 Israelis and taking at least 100 Israelis hostage.
Israel responded with an aerial and naval bombardment of Gaza, targeting Hamas militants and infrastructure, but also hitting residential buildings, schools, hospitals and media offices.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation in Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire. However, previous attempts to broker a truce have failed, as both sides have rejected each other’s conditions.