Our assessment shows Israel not responsible for Gaza hospital blast: US

A United States analysis indicates that Israel was not responsible for the deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of civilians on Tuesday, the White House has said, basing its assessment on intelligence overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information.

The assessment by the US came on Wednesday the same day when President Joe Biden made a show of solidarity with Israel during his visit there.

The massive explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital late on Tuesday night killed 471 people and injured 314 others, the Palestinian Health Ministry has said.

“The US government assesses that Israel was not responsible for an explosion that killed hundreds of civilians yesterday at the Al Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip,” White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

“Our assessment is based on available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity, overhead imagery, and open source video and images of the incident,” she said.

Israel had cut off the flow of food, fuel and water to the Gaza Strip after the attack by Hamas, in which nearly 1,400 people in Israel were killed.

Mediators have been struggling to break a deadlock over providing supplies to desperate civilians, aid groups and hospitals.

There were conflicting claims of who was behind the explosion, but protests flared quickly in the region as many Arab leaders said Israel was responsible.

Hamas officials in Gaza quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike, saying hundreds were killed.

Israel denied that it was involved and released a flurry of video, audio and other information that it said showed the blast was instead due to a rocket misfire by Islamic Jihad, another militant group operating in Gaza.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller, more radical Palestinian militant group that often cooperates with Hamas in their shared struggle against Israel, has dismissed Israel’s allegation.

Citing intelligence reports, Watson said some Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip believed that the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket or missile launch carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

“As the President said earlier today, the explosion appears to be the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza — and we are continuing to work to corroborate whether it was a failed PIJ rocket,” she said.

During his brief visit to Israel, Biden tried to strike a balance between showing US support for Israel, while containing growing alarm among Arab allies. Upon his arrival, Biden embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed concern for the suffering of Gaza’s civilians.

Biden said the hospital blast appeared not to be Israel’s fault, and he cautioned Israelis not to allow outrage over the deadly Hamas attack to consume them.

Biden also said that he asked “tough questions” during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday. Based on what I’ve seen, it appears it was done by the other team, and not you,” he told Netanyahu, publicly endorsing Israeli contention.

He added that there were “a lot of people out there” who weren’t sure what caused the explosion at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in the centre of Gaza.

Later in a post on X, Biden said he was “proud to be in Israel to honour the courage, commitment, and bravery of the Israeli people. Americans are grieving with you following last week’s terror attacks.”

Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the situation on the ground, security assistance and humanitarian needs, and information on unaccounted Americans.

“I asked tough questions as a friend of Israel. We will continue to deter any actor wanting to widen this conflict,” he said in another post.

Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel resumed Wednesday after a 12-hour lull. Israeli strikes on Gaza continued, including on cities in the south that Israel had described as “safe zones” for civilians.

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