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Israelis and Palestinians blame each other for the blast at a Gaza hospital

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

In the Middle East, there's an ongoing dispute over who was responsible for that deadly explosion at the Gaza City hospital on Tuesday.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

That's right. More information about the incident is emerging, but it's far from conclusive. And the Israelis and Palestinians are still blaming each other.

MARTÍNEZ: Here to break it down, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. OK, the explosion, Greg - how much do we know about what happened and what caused it?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, A, there are photos, videos, eyewitness accounts. Me and my NPR colleagues have been going through all the available evidence, but what we don't have yet is clarity. Photos show an explosion dug a relatively small hole in the concrete in the parking lot of the Ahli Arab Hospital. A couple of cars were destroyed. Fire burned several down to the metal frame. The hospital has broken windows, pockmarked walls and some missing roof tiles, but the hospital didn't suffer any real structural damage. A Palestinian doctor there at the time of the explosion spoke to NPR and described a horrific scene with many people killed just outside the hospital. But he said no one was killed inside the hospital, just a few people wounded.

MARTÍNEZ: You said outside the hospital. Why were there so many people outside of the hospital?

MYRE: Well, you know, of course, the hospital is full of patients wounded in the war, so relatives and friends were present, but many other Gazans, several thousand, came to the hospital grounds hoping it would be a safe place to shelter. A large group was gathered in the courtyard at the time of the blast, according to multiple witnesses there.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so all the people who died were outside of the hospital. Does any of this provide any clues to who may have fired this weapon?

MYRE: Well, A, nothing for certain, but weapons experts say that the limited size of the blast in the parking lot suggests that a smaller weapon was used. So that could be a rocket fired by the Palestinians. Also, videos show a large fireball at the moment of impact, which could be rocket fuel that ignited. The Israelis say a militant Palestinian faction - Islamic Jihad, not Hamas - fired 10 rockets toward Israel. They say one of those rockets misfired and crashed into the hospital grounds, and that's the cause of all these casualties.

MARTÍNEZ: And Palestinians, I would assume, are not going with that version, right?

MYRE: Absolutely. They say Israel has been striking almost every corner of Gaza with relentless airstrikes that have killed many civilians and that this was just part of that bombing campaign. Now, we should note that Israel airstrikes are often conducted with very powerful bombs and missiles, and they tend to leave very large craters that can take down a large section of a building and in some cases an entire building itself. But Israel also has smaller weapons in its arsenal, so it's not yet possible to rule in or rule out all the various possibilities here.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And during his visit to Israel yesterday, President Biden said that he supported the Israeli version of events. What reason, Greg, did he give?

MYRE: Right. The president said that this was based on information he received from the Pentagon, but neither he nor the Pentagon provided any details. President Biden said he again thought it was an errant Palestinian rocket. And at the White House, the National Security Council said in a brief statement that it appeared Israel was not responsible based on the intelligence available at this point, but they stressed that they were still looking for further information.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks for sorting this out.

MYRE: Sure thing, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA'S "ALL THINGS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.