Human Rights Watch: Rocket Misfire Likely Caused Gaza Hospital Blast

Palestinians check the place of the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital, in Gaza City, Oct. 18. (AP Photo/Abed Khaled)

GENEVA (Reuters) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday that evidence suggested a misfired rocket was the likely cause of an explosion that resulted in heavy casualties at a hospital in Gaza on Oct. 17.

The explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital triggered outrage across the Arab world. Palestinians blamed an Israeli airstrike, while Israel said it was caused by a misfiring Palestinian rocket launch.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said 471 people were killed. Israel disputes this figure. An unclassified U.S. intelligence report estimated the death toll “at the low end of the 100 to 300 spectrum.”

“The explosion that killed and injured many civilians at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on Oct. 17, 2023, resulted from an apparent rocket-propelled munition, such as those commonly used by Palestinian armed groups,” HRW said.

It said the findings of its investigation into the explosion were based on a review of photos and videos, satellite imagery, and interviews with witnesses and experts.

The Al-Ahli Hospital blast was one of the most fiercely disputed incidents in a war marked by accusations from both sides.

Emmanuel Nachshon, deputy director-general for public diplomacy at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, criticized the time it took HRW to release its opinion. “More than a month to reach halfheartedly the conclusion the whole world reached after two days,” he said on social media.

HRW said reports of 471 dead and 342 injured “displays an unusually high killed-to-injured ratio” and appeared to be “out of proportion” with the damage visible on the site.

“Authorities in Gaza and Israel should release the evidence of munition remnants and other information they have regarding the Al-Ahli Hospital explosion to allow for a full investigation,” HRW crisis and conflict director Ida Sawyer said.

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