On Tuesday night, a massive explosion rocked the al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds of people and injuring many more. The hospital, which is owned by the Anglican church, was packed with patients, medical staff, and civilians who sought shelter there from the ongoing Israeli airstrikes.
The blast was so powerful that it reduced the multi-storey building to rubble, leaving behind a scene of horror and chaos. Rescue workers and volunteers searched frantically for survivors, while bodies, blood, and debris were scattered around.
The Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas, said at least 500 people were killed in what it said was an Israeli airstrike on the hospital. A spokesperson for the Gaza civil defence put the number of killed at about 300. More than 300 casualties were taken to Gaza City’s main hospital, al-Shifa, which was already overwhelmed with wounded from other strikes.
Who is responsible for the blast?
The Israeli military and the Palestinian militant groups have blamed each other for the blast, offering conflicting accounts of what caused it.
The Israeli military reportedly said an initial investigation suggested the explosion was caused by a failed Hamas rocket launch, before saying it was the result of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket barrage. Islamic Jihad denied the Israeli allegation, and the scale of the blast appeared to be outside the militant groups’ capabilities.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been firing rockets at Israel since October 6, when Israel killed six Hamas members in a covert operation in Gaza. Israel has responded with airstrikes and ground incursions, targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites, as well as civilian infrastructure.
The war has killed more than 3,000 people in Gaza and 70 in Israel, according to health officials on both sides. The UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than half of the population lacks access to clean water, electricity, and health care.
How did the world react to the tragedy?
The explosion at the hospital has sparked outrage and condemnation from around the world, as well as calls for an immediate ceasefire and an independent investigation.
The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said he was “deeply shocked” by the incident and urged all parties to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians. He also called for “an immediate end to the hostilities” and “a return to dialogue”.
The US president, Joe Biden, who is expected to visit the region soon, said he was “heartbroken” by the loss of life and expressed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He also said he was working with Egypt and other partners to broker a ceasefire and “prevent further escalation”.
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he was “appalled” by the attack on the hospital and called for “an urgent de-escalation of tensions”. He also said he was “deeply concerned” by the humanitarian situation in Gaza and pledged to provide additional aid.
The Arab League condemned the attack as a “war crime” and a “flagrant violation of international law”. It also called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation and take action.
What is the fate of the hospital and its staff?
The al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital was one of the oldest and largest hospitals in Gaza, serving more than 200,000 people annually. It was founded in 1907 by British missionaries and later taken over by the Anglican church. It offered a range of services, including surgery, maternity care, pediatrics, oncology, and physiotherapy.
The hospital was also known for its interfaith work and its cooperation with Israeli hospitals. It employed more than 200 staff members from different backgrounds and religions. Many of them were killed or injured in the blast.
The Anglican church said it was “devastated” by the attack on its hospital and expressed its solidarity with its staff and patients. It also called for an end to the violence and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The hospital’s director, Dr Suhaila Tarazi, who survived the blast, said she was “in shock” and “in pain” over what happened. She said she hoped that the hospital could be rebuilt and continue its mission of serving the people of Gaza.