Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “barbaric terrorists” are responsible for a missile strike that has killed hundreds of people at a Christian-run hospital in Gaza. He categorically rejected Hamas claims that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out the attack.
“So the whole world knows: The barbaric terrorists in Gaza are the ones who attacked the Gaza hospital, not the IDF. Those who cruelly murdered our children, murder their children as well,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Gaza Health Ministry reports 500 people have been killed in the explosion at the Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. A Gaza Civil Defence chief put the toll at 300. Both departments are run by Hamas.
The IDF insists it’s not to blame, telling the BBC: “A hospital is a highly sensitive building and is not an IDF target.” It claims a rocket fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) appeared to have caused the hospital explosion. The IDF has released the following statement:
An analysis of IDF operational systems indicates that a barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit. Intelligence from multiple sources we have in our hands indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza.
The PIJ denies it’s responsible, but Israel claims there’s no sign of one of its rockets that was targeted at the city of Haifa ever reaching its destination.
The al-Ahli Arab Hospital is the oldest hospital in Gaza run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The Dean of St George’s College in Jerusalem Canon Richard Sewell called the strike on the hospital “an unmitigated disaster” and “an absolute horror show which is unfolding.”
He told the BBC: “I have no way of proving who did it, that will transpire in time. But we deal with the tragedy, we deal with the disaster and the recriminations will have to run their course. There is also no justification for this type of attack, accidental or deliberate.”
Earlier this week in response to a weekend missile strike on the hospital Canon Sewell told Premier Christian News: “There were around 6,000 people who were either patients in the hospital or sheltering in the grounds of the hospital [at the weekend] when a missile came in and slammed into the side of a building. It destroyed a cancer assessment unit and one other room. Four people were injured, thankfully, not critically.”
It’s not clear where the weekend missile came from, but Canon Sewell said: “It spread absolute panic and fear amongst the people who were sheltering there because they felt it would be a safe place to be. Because although the Israelis have cut off all water and electricity, our hospital has its own water supply through underwater systems, although it is a limited supply. They also have electricity because they’ve got their own generator.”
“I don’t know why the hospital was hit [at the weekend], but perhaps it was a reminder that there are no safe places. The Israelis want people to leave. So as a result, several thousand people left the grounds of the hospital because they felt it was not safe enough. And Lord knows where they’ve gone because many people don’t want to take the road south. As we’ve seen one convoy already got attacked.”
“I just overheard a conversation that was being had with somebody who’s sheltering in a church with young children who are there, and I could hear the sound of the children behind crying and frightened, they were terrified. This is the reality of what it means to be a Gazan at the moment. These are not Hamas operatives, these are ordinary people and most of them have got no interest in politics.”
“Feelings are running so high. We as Christians must look deeper, to try to understand and to look at all people with compassion. I belong to a predominantly Palestinian church. My friends are predominantly Palestinian, but my heart is breaking for the pain of the Jewish Israelis, the families of those hostages held in Gaza. And as well, for our people sheltering, terrified, in a hospital which should be a safe place, where there are patients who cannot leave. Please pray for the bombs to stop.”
In response to the weekend strike, the head of the Anglican Church had called on Israel to reverse an order for Gaza hospitals to be evacuated. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that hospitals and patients in Gaza “are in grave danger” and must be protected. He stressed that the seriously ill and injured “cannot be safely evacuated, they are facing catastrophe.”
The Archbishop stated: “I appeal for the evacuation order on hospitals in northern Gaza to be reversed and for health facilities, health workers, patients and civilians to be protected. The evil and barbaric terror attacks on Israelis by Hamas were a blasphemous outrage. But the civilians of Gaza are not responsible for the crimes of Hamas. Please continue to pray for all innocent people, Israeli and Palestinian, who are caught up in the terrible violence in the Holy Land.”
Photo: American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem