Initial news coverage reported that the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was hit in an Israeli airstrike. However, footage from around the time of the explosion appears to show that a missile launched from Gaza may have fallen onto the hospital grounds.
Gazan officials claimed that the strike killed more than 500 civilians.
Israel has since stated that the hospital was a “highly sensitive building” and that it was “not an IDF [Israel Defense Force] target.
“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 [Baptist] hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit,” the Israeli military said. “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.”
An Al Jazeera broadcast documented the moment that the Islamic Jihad launched a rocket which misfired and hit a hospital in Gaza, killing hundreds. pic.twitter.com/ypZTdJobzk
— Israel ישראל 🇮🇱 (@Israel) October 17, 2023
The news of the explosion sparked massive protests across the Middle East, including several marches to American, British and French embassies. This included Lebanese protesters approaching the French and American embassies in Beirut.
Other protesters marched near the British embassy in Tehran, Iran and shouted “God is Great. Death to Britain!”
Similar protests were reported in Baghdad, Iraq.
The hospital explosion also had a diplomatic element. Following news of the blast King Abdullah of Jordan canceled a planned Wednesday summit with President Joe Biden. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also canceled a planned meeting with Biden over the explosion.
The Islamic Jihad group suspected of launching the rocket is an ally of Hamas and receives support from Iran.
Israel ordered its citizens to leave Turkey immediately and the U.S. State Department issued an advisory against traveling to Lebanon.