Gaza City suffers more destruction as several people who were sheltering in a Greek Orthodox church are killed in an explosion.
The 12th century church of Saint Porphyrius was hit in a strike which caused ‘huge damage’ and ‘many casualties’ according to reports by Hamas.
The attack comes just days after an explosion at al-Ahli hospital which claimed the lives of up to 300 people and sparked a venomous blame game between Israel, Hamas and their allies.
In a statement Hamas said Israel had attacked the church, but this has not been independently confirmed at this stage. It’s understood that at least two women have died and many others have been injured in the attack, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said targeting the church ‘constitutes a war crime’.
A woman cries at the Greek Orthodox Church after an Israeli attack in Gaza City, Gaza on October 20, 2023
Gaza City suffers more destruction as several people who were sheltering in a Greek Orthodox church are killed in an explosion
Personnel carry an injured civilian at the scene of destruction after an Israeli attack on the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City
US intelligence has found that Israel was ‘probably not’ responsible for Tuesday’s explosion at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza.
According to an unclassified assessment sent to Capitol Hill by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ‘only light structural damage at the hospital’ was reported, after earlier reports suggested the explosion had ‘torn through’ the entire building.
‘Israel Probably Did Not Bomb Gaza Strip Hospital: We judge that Israel was not responsible for an explosion that killed hundreds of civilians yesterday [17 October] at the Al Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip,’ the assessment obtained by CNN states.
‘Our assessment is based on available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity, and open-source video and images of the incident’, it added.
The US intelligence community also estimated that the total number of deaths from the hospital blast were at the ‘low end of the 100-to-300 spectrum,’ according to the assessment, a lower number than figures initially cited by Hamas of more than 500.
The intelligence community ‘observed only light structural damage at the hospital,’ with no observable damage to the main hospital building and no impact craters, according to the assessment.
‘We see only light damage to the roofs of two structures near the main hospital building, but both structures remained intact,’ the assessment states.
Aerial view shows people standing before destroyed cars at the site of the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday
Bodies of Palestinians killed by an explosion at the Ahli Arab hospital are gathered in the front yard of the al-Shifa hospital on Tuesday
The US intelligence community released its initial assessment on Wednesday that Israel was not responsible after President Joe Biden stated publicly while in Israel that the strike appeared to have been ‘the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.’
Earlier today Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Palestinian authorities of lying over the death toll caused by Tuesday’s explosion.
The Gaza Health Ministry said ‘hundreds’ of Palestinians were killed when the blast erupted at the hospital around 7pm Tuesday night, before later publishing an official figure of 471.
But Israeli spokesman Lior Haiat this morning said Israeli and US intelligence suggested the number of casualties was less than 100, putting the figure at only ‘several dozen’.
It came as a European intelligence agency told AFP: ‘There wasn’t 200 or even 500 deaths, more likely between 10 and 50.’
It is the latest point of contention in a bitter war of words between Israel and Palestine, with each side accusing the other of being responsible for the blast.
Israel’s Defence Forces yesterday shared a slew of evidence it claims proved that a misfiring rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – an independent jihadist group – was behind the blast.
The proof provided by the Israeli Defence Forces included an audio clip of alleged Hamas terrorists confirming the rocket came from PIJ, a video of what appears to be the rocket in question misfiring over Gaza, and bird’s eye images of the blast site that did not have characteristics consistent with an Israeli aerial strike, according to an IDF spokesman.
Meanwhile, Israel’s foes – Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah and Iran – insist the IDF was behind the devastation and vowed to take revenge. Anger sparked across the Muslim world yesterday, with protesters pouring onto the streets in cities from Tripoli to Tehran in demonstration against Israel.
Jordan’s foreign minister said: ‘No one is buying (Israel’s) narrative in this part of the world… the only way people would entertain a different narrative is if there was an independent international inquiry with impeccable evidence that it was not Israel.’
Several experts and analysts weighing in on the issue largely appeared to agree with Israel’s assessment that a misfiring rocket fired from Gaza caused the tragedy, but many warned it was too early to say with certainty.
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023
This image provided by Maxar Technologies on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023 shows an overview of al-Ahli Hospital after explosion in Gaza City
Injured Palestinian child taken to Al-Shifa Hospital following Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on October 17, 2023
Speaking to media on Wednesday morning, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari showed a series of images, satellite photos and intelligence documents he said proved the damage caused at the hospital could not possibly have come from an Israeli strike.
He explained the images showed there was no structural damage to buildings around the Al-Ahli hospital, no craters in the adjacent car park, and no debris consistent with an air strike, implying a direct hit from an Israeli missile would have caused far more destruction.
‘The walls stay intact. There are no craters in the parking lot. These are the characteristics that show it was not an aerial munition that hit the parking lot,’ he concluded.
He also pointed out images of what he claimed was shrapnel on the roof of nearby buildings, suggesting the rocket fell apart in the air and sprayed its detritus across a larger area.
Other images shared widely on social media later showed some small craters measuring two or three feet in diameter in the car park outside the hospital.
This morning, satellite images released of the scene showed damage to the hospital grounds and car park, but most structures were still standing.
It came after Israeli officials yesterday released a video of the moment a rocket purportedly streaking towards Israel from Gaza appeared to suffer a problem and suddenly changed course.
The projectile is seen soaring through the air before jerking away from its original path. Seconds later the flames from its engines spark even brighter before flaming out completely.
The IDF argued that an Israeli strike would’ve caused craters like those seen right from previous air strikes. A spokesperson said shrapnel seen on the rooves of nearby buildings and minimal damage to the car park next to the blast suggested an Israeli airstrike was not responsible
Israel also released a radar map of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket attacks, as well as a video of the moment a rocket purportedly streaking towards Israel from Gaza appears to suffer a problem and suddenly changes course before flaming out
People react at the area of Al-Ahli hospital, where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast that Israeli and Palestinian officials blame on each other, in Gaza City, October 18, 2023
In the darkness, it is not clear whether the rocket broke apart or simply lost its trajectory.
But moments later, a pair of explosions erupt in the city below – the result of what Israel claims was the rocket falling back to Earth and striking the hospital in Gaza City.
Several other videos from varying distances and angles appeared to show rockets streaming over Gaza with the blast at the hospital seen lighting up the night sky.
The IDF later shared a map of radar data which it said showed a salvo of rockets from a PIJ site streaking past the hospital, implying one of those rockets misfired and landed on the site.
And on Wednesday afternoon, a video clip aired on Israeli Channel 12 News appeared to show a salvo of rockets being launched before explosions rocked what is believed to be the medical centre.