An explosion for which Israel and the Palestinians blame each other. left hundreds dead in a hospital in Gaza and provoked international condemnations and protests throughout the Muslim world, a few hours before the arrival of American President Joe Biden in the region.
The Islamist Hamas movement in power in Gaza accused Israel of being at the origin of this strike, which the Israeli army attributed to a rocket attack by Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, eleven days after the start of the war sparked by Hamas' unprecedented attack on Israel. Islamic Jihad denied and also blamed Israel.
The shooting sparked numerous condemnations, and demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran, Amman, Istanbul, Tunis and even in Beirut, where clashes took place with the police.
In Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, clashes broke out Tuesday evening between demonstrators calling for the departure of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces.
Expected in Israel on Wednesday, American President Jo Biden will “postpone ” his planned stop next in Jordan, indicated the White House. Mr. Biden said he was “outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion” in a statement.
Jordan had previously announced the cancellation of a summit in which Mr. Biden was to participate with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, and President Abbas.
– “Lies” –
“From 200 to 300″ people died”, declared the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian territory, according to which “hundreds of victims are still in the rubble” of the Ahli Arab hospital, in central Gaza.
Hamas speaks of more than 500 victims, and has incriminated Israel.
Clashes between demonstrators and police in front of the American embassy in Beirut, October 18, 2023 © AFP – JOSEPH EID
The Israeli army refuted this accusation, affirming that “according to information from the intelligence services (…) Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket attack.
“We will provide proof of our assertions in the coming hours,” said Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israeli army, on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.
“Lies,” retorted the Islamic Jihad, which accused Israel of wanting to “shirk responsibility for its crime.”
At the request of Russia and the United Arab Emirates, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday, and will decide just before on a resolution brought by Brazil to try to find a common position on the conflict .
“We were operating in the hospital, there was a strong explosion and the ceiling fell on the operating room. It was a massacre,” said the Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, doctor with Médecins sans frontières, in a press release from the NGO.
Deadly strike on a hospital in Gaza © AFP – Sophie RAMIS, Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem, which manages the hospital, condemned a “brutal” attack that occurred “during Israeli strikes”, denouncing a “crime against humanity”.
– “Women and children” –
The Palestinian Red Crescent denounced a “war crime” , which caused “hundreds” of civilian victims, “including women, children, health personnel.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres, who is due to travel to Egypt on the border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday to discuss humanitarian aid, said on Tuesday evening he was “horrified”. The Hamas attacks “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinians”, he added on Wednesday from Beijing, after denouncing “the terrorist acts committed by Hamas on October 7”.
Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, called for a “day of anger” to be observed on Wednesday to condemn the “massacre”, of which it accuses Israel.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi decreed a day of “mourning public” on Wednesday and predicted that the attack on the hospital would backfire against Israel and its American ally. On Tuesday, Tehran threatened possible “preventive action” against Israel, which is preparing a ground offensive in Gaza.
Since the start of the war on October 7, triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel, the Israeli army has bombarded this 362 km2 enclave daily, vowing to eliminate the Islamist movement.
These strikes, which according to the UN have led to the displacement of a million people, many of whom have found refuge in hospitals, have already caused more than 3,000 deaths, the majority of them civilians, including hundreds of children, according to local authorities.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel since the start of the war, most of them civilians on the day of the Hamas attack which also kidnapped 199 people according to the Israeli army.
Israel has also announced having recovered the bodies of 1,500 Hamas fighters after their incursion.
Keren Shem, the mother of a Franco-Israeli hostage held by Hamas in Gaza, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, October 17, 2023 © AFP – GIL COHEN MAGEN
“I ask world leaders that my daughter be returned to us in the state she is in today as well as the other hostages,” urged Keren Shem on Tuesday, the mother of Mia, a Franco-Israeli hostage including a video was broadcast by Hamas on Monday.
Intense negotiations involving several countries are underway to try to free the hostages. According to Hamas, more than twenty of them were killed in Israeli strikes.
– Rafah still closed –
Water and food are lacking for the two .4 million Gazans, also deprived of electricity, after the siege imposed by Israel since October 9 on the small territory, already subject to a land, sea and air blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.
Israeli armored vehicles head towards the border with Gaza, October 16, 2023 © AFP – Menahem KAHANA
In the south of Gaza, where residents have fled by the hundreds of thousands, following a call for the evacuation of the north launched by the Israeli army, the Rafah crossing point, controlled by Egypt, the only exit from Gaza to the outside which is not governed by Israel, remains closed.
Cairo on Tuesday called on Israel to “stop targeting the surroundings” of the terminal to allow humanitarian aid to enter “as quickly as possible”.
While the Israeli army has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers around Palestinian territory, and along the border with Lebanon, nearly 500,000 Israeli civilians have also been evacuated to keep them away from the areas combat, according to the army.
Gaza Strip: evolution of population density © AFP – Julia Han JANICKI, Paz PIZARRO
Tension is also high on the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire are daily between the Israeli army and Hezbollah.
In the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel, at least 61 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to local authorities.
< p>In Gaza, the Israeli army “will begin its reinforced military activities when the moment is right,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Such an operation promises to be perilous in this very densely populated area. , while the north of the territory is riddled with tunnels where Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, hides fighters and weapons.
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