The situation in the Gaza Strip is spiralling out of control, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Wednesday, after an explosion at a hospital that claimed the lives of hundreds of people, pushing the already fragile situation in the region to the brink.
“We need violence on all sides to stop”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said on social media. “Every second we wait to get medical aid in, we lose lives”, he added.
At least 3,300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 wounded since Israel began its aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip on 7 October, the Palestinian Minister of Health, Mai al-Kaila, said on Wednesday.
An Israeli air strike on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in besieged Gaza on Tuesday night killed at least 500 people, Palestinian officials said.
Gaza’s health ministry said the explosion at the hospital was caused by an Israeli air raid. Israel has denied this and blamed the explosion on a misfired rocket fired by the armed group known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The PIJ on Wednesday rejected Israel’s accusations, saying they “lie”.
As evidence that the hospital had been an Israeli target, the group pointed to Israel’s order to evacuate Al-Ahli, and also its previous targeting of the same hospital complex. They said the size of the blast, the angle of the fall and the extent of the destruction all pointed to Israel.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the rockets fired by the PIJ didn’t directly hit the hospital facility, but passed by the hospital and hit the facility’s car park.
He said the Israeli military did have an Air Force operation in the area around the time of the hospital explosion, but it was using “a different type of ammunition” that did not match the footage from the hospital”.
Israel’s denial that it was behind the attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza that killed at least 500 people is not surprising, according to former spokesman of the UN relief agency in Palestine (UNRWA) Chris Gunness.
Gunness questioned the plausibility of a homemade rocket from Gaza causing such extensive destruction and loss of life. He told Al Jazeera that Israel has a history of spreading disinformation, even against UN agencies.
Meanwhile, late on Tuesday, Gazan doctors held a press conference at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital among the bodies and remains of the victims.
“We were performing surgery at the Baptist hospital when a strong explosion occurred and the ceiling fell on the operating room…This is a massacre”, a doctor said.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said it was completely unacceptable and insisted those responsible must be held responsible.
“Words fail me. Tonight, hundreds of people were killed – horrifically – in a massive strike at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, including patients, healthcare workers and families that had been seeking refuge in and around the hospital”, he said. “Once again the most vulnerable”.
Before the bombing of al-Alhi hospital, Israeli attacks on Gaza had already killed at least 2,778 people and wounded 9,700, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Nearly two-thirds of the casualties were children. A further 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried alive or dead under the rubble.
On Tuesday, six people were killed and dozens wounded when Israeli tank fire hit a UN school in central Gaza where 4,000 Palestinians had taken refuge, the UNRWA said. At least 24 UN facilities have been hit in the past week, killing at least 14 agency staff.