In a deeply troubling turn of events, a deadly explosion at Gaza City’s Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital has sent shockwaves through the region, leading to the cancellation of a planned summit involving U.S. President Joe Biden. The incident, which occurred on Tuesday, has intensified the already fragile situation in the Middle East, marked by the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The incident was initially reported by Gaza’s health ministry, claiming that an Israeli airstrike resulted in hundreds of casualties at the Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital. However, Israel refuted this claim, suggesting that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied any involvement.
The true extent of the casualties remains uncertain. Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra indicated that hundreds of people lost their lives, with rescue operations ongoing. Discrepancies in death tolls have been reported, with a Gaza civil defense chief initially mentioning 300 casualties, while health ministry sources suggested a toll of 500.
Regardless of the details, the incident has further fueled the ongoing crisis in the region, which was initially sparked by an October 7 cross-border attack by Hamas into southern Israel. This attack caught Israel off guard and resulted in a significant loss of life.
The Gaza hospital blast and its repercussions have had far-reaching diplomatic consequences. Jordan canceled a planned summit with President Biden, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Abbas also called off his meeting with Biden following the hospital explosion.
Protests erupted in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, with Palestinian security forces using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators expressing their anger against Abbas. Simultaneously, protests occurred outside Israeli embassies in Turkey and Jordan, as well as near the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, where security forces used tear gas against demonstrators.
Israeli military spokespeople provided an alternative narrative, suggesting that rockets fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad passed by the hospital at the time of the explosion. They claimed that the strike hit the hospital’s parking lot. However, Islamic Jihad denied any involvement and asserted that they had no activity in or around Gaza City during that time.
As the situation unfolds, international condemnation continues to mount, with Russia and the United Arab Emirates demanding a U.N. Security Council meeting. Clashes have broken out in the West Bank, and the United Nations reported that an Israeli strike hit one of its schools, where thousands of people were seeking shelter. This incident resulted in casualties, though Israel’s military stated it was investigating the report.
President Biden expressed his outrage and sadness over the hospital explosion and pledged to gather more information about the incident. His mission to the Middle East, which initially aimed to show support for Israel, stabilize the region, and facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza, has been complicated by the hospital strike and the subsequent diplomatic fallout.
The tragic events surrounding the Gaza hospital explosion have further heightened tensions in a region already grappling with a protracted conflict. The incident has raised questions about responsibility, deepening the complexities of the situation. President Biden faces a challenging diplomatic mission as he seeks to navigate these turbulent waters and address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while balancing the interests of all parties involved.