AnalysisMiddle EastPalestine

Debunking Israel’s lies about the bombing of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza

Photo: Screenshot from Al-Jazeera livestream

Let’s be clear: Israel lies. The Israeli government — backed by the United States — murders Palestinians with genocidal impunity, while at the same time running a sophisticated disinformation apparatus, the sole purpose of which is to cover up its unspeakable atrocities. While the Israeli military rains bombs indiscriminately on Gaza, it simultaneously wages an information war, spewing falsehood after falsehood that defies all logic and all facts on the ground, and demands of us to disbelieve what we see with our very eyes and what we know to be true. This propaganda campaign would not be possible without the U.S. corporate media, which acts as Israel’s mouthpiece, amplifying its lies.

On the evening of Oct. 17 at around 7:00 p.m. local time, a bomb hit Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. There is no reason to believe the perpetrator behind the attack was anyone other than the Israeli military — the actor behind the genocidal aerial bombardment campaign currently being waged on the Gaza Strip.

Because Al-Ahli was already treating so many civilians who had sustained injuries from Israel’s aerial bombardment campaign, because so many of its patients had been evacuated from other Gaza hospitals already targeted by the IDF, and because the hospital had become a center of refuge for those who had lost their homes due to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing, the death toll was tremendous. The Gaza Health Ministry reported at least 500 dead. The mainstream media, quick to fall into lockstep with the pro-Israel narrative, prefaced this number as coming from the “Hamas-run Health Ministry,” as if to cast doubt on its veracity in readers’ minds. This was done by PBS, Associated Press, LA Times, Yahoo News, EuroNews, Business Insider, among many, many others. Every corporate media outlet has also given credence to the Israeli government’s claims of denial.

Immediately after the massacre, Gaza health officials — perhaps anticipating an uphill battle in order to even be believed — held a press conference among a pile of corpses the attack left behind.

Israel on the defensive

Make no mistake: Israel has a long history of targeting Palestinian hospitals and medical workers — Al-Ahli was far from the first. But the death toll from these previous attacks never rose to such staggering proportions as the one on Oct. 17. Perhaps in an attempt to avert international condemnation, Israel asked us to accept its boldest lie yet: It was not responsible for the bombing of Al-Ahli. Israeli officials expected the public to believe this, despite hitting the same hospital with a rocket just three days before, damaging Al-Ahli’s Diagnostic Cancer Treatment Centre.

The Oct. 17 attack, Israeli officials claimed, was actually the result of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket misfire. This is absurd, as Palestinian resistance rockets do not have the capability to inflict the scale of damage and injury as sustained in the Al-Ahli bombing. Some U.S. weapons experts, along with preliminary research done by Goldsmiths, University of London’s Forensic Architecture and analysis by Al-Jazeera, have also challenged Israel’s claims that the Al-Ahli massacre was due to Palestinian rocket fire. PIJ has denied responsibility.

Israeli officials publicly claimed this even though Hananya Naftali, who has worked as a digital aid and social media advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, posted on X immediately afterward attributing the attack to the Israeli Air Force. The tweet was soon deleted.

Hananya Naftali tweet attributing the Al-Ahli attack on Israeli Air Force. The tweet has since been deleted.

Israeli government accounts went into overdrive to spin the narrative. The official state of Israel X account posted a video allegedly corroborating its version of events. The video supposedly shows a barrage of rockets fired from a PIJ base toward Israel at the time of the Al-Ahli massacre. But journalist Aric Toler noted that the time stamp on Israel’s video does not match up with the timing of the attack. Reports pinpoint the attack as having occurred at 7 p.m. local time, while the time stamp in the video shows the rockets firing at 7:58 p.m. local time, nearly a full hour later (see images). [For his part, Toler noted in his initial tweet that the attack occurred at 7:20 p.m. and then corrects himself later in the thread, based on an Al-Jazeera report.]

Around half an hour after the initial tweet, the Israel state account quietly edited its original tweet, this time omitting the video entirely.

Tweets from the official state of Israel X account. The first tweet includes a video of purported rocket attacks from Palestinian Islamic Jihad with a time stamp of 7:58 p.m. local time, nearly a full hour after the attack took place. The second tweet shows a later edited version of the tweet omitting the video.

Later that evening, Israeli officials presented as “proof” a released audio recording they had purportedly intercepted between two Hamas operatives in which they discuss the misfiring of the PIJ rocket on Al-Ahli (referred to in the recording as “Al-Ma’amadani Hospital”). For its part, Hamas called the recording an “obvious fabrication.” That the IDF presented this as evidence is laughable as Hamas operatives would not likely discuss candidly over the phone exact locations of rocket fire on the Palestinian Resistance side, and neither one of the supposed operatives is speaking Arabic with a Gazan accent. In fact, UK broadcaster Channel 4 News reported that two independent Arab journalists they asked had cast doubt on the authenticity of the recording based on the two operatives’ “language, accent, dialect, syntax, and tone” — none of which they said were credible.

Channel 4 News also reported that a forensic sound analysis conducted by Earshot.Ngo found that the two voices in the clip were recorded independently and edited together in a digital audio workstation with effects added. The analysis then concluded, “The level of manipulation required to edit these two voices together disqualifies it as a source of credible evidence. Earshot’s opinion is that this recording does not meet the standard required for evidence and should not be used by the media without the clear caveat it has been digitally manipulated.”

History of Israel bombing Palestinian hospitals and targeting medical workers

There is no doubt in Palestinians’ minds that Israel bombed the hospital, despite what government officials claim. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church which owns Al-Ahli, stated that Israeli officials phoned the hospital ordering those in the area to evacuate on Sunday, Oct. 15 — just two days before it was bombed. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, also stated the hospital received at least three Israeli military orders to evacuate before the deadly blast on Oct. 17.

This was also confirmed by the World Health Organization, which said in an Oct. 17 statement Al-Ahli was one of 20 hospitals in northern Gaza given evacuation orders from the Israeli military. And in a previous statement released Oct. 14, the WHO had called for Israel to “immediately reverse” the order stating evacuation was “impossible” to carry out and that it was a “death sentence for the sick and injured.”

And as Middle East scholar Assal Rad has pointed out, Israel has a long history of targeting Gaza hospitals and medical staff. During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, Amnesty International released a statement demanding an independent investigation into the IDF amidst mounting evidence that it was deliberately targeting hospitals and medical workers. Indeed, during that military incursion, the IDF bombed Gaza’s only rehab hospital, forcing staff and paralyzed patients to evacuate. In the same month, the IDF also fired a tank shell at another hospital in Gaza City — Al-Aqsa Hospital — killing at least four and injuring 40. A report by the Intercept in May 2021, noted that Israeli airstrikes had destroyed at least 19 health clinics in Gaza.

Even before Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Palestinian health care personnel in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem were being supplied with bulletproof vests and helmets due to an increase in attacks by the Israeli military. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, even before the Oct. 7 resistance counter-offensive, 2023 saw 193 incidents of Israel targeting ambulances and medical staff — a 310% increase from the same period of time last year.

During Al-Aqsa Flood alone, Israel has shelled Al-Durrah Children’s Hospital in eastern Gaza with white phosphorus munitions and bombed Jordan Field Hospital in the north, forcing the latter to close down completely. Other hospitals in Gaza such as Al Shifa Hospital, Al-Wafa Medical Centre, Abu Youself al-Najjar Hospital, and Al-Awda Hospital have been forced to evacuate by the Israeli military since Oct. 7.

In fact, just two days after the attack on Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Israel attacked another hospital: Palestine Red Crescent Society released footage on Oct. 19 which shows airstrikes near the vicinity of Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City. The next day on Oct. 20, the PRCS announced the Israeli military was demanding the evacuation of 400 patients and 12,000 displaced civilians from Al-Quds, pleading, “We call the international community to act urgently, averting another catastrophe like Al-Ahli Hospital.”

The world stands with Palestine

That the Al-Ahli massacre has the Israeli government scrambling to spin a counter-narrative attests to its fundamental weakness: The regime may have the backing of the U.S. government, but the people of the world stand with Palestine. Israel is losing the information war. When it launched its murderous aerial bombardment campaign on Gaza, Israel did not anticipate the full scale of pushback and international condemnation against its genocidal crimes. Over the last few weeks, millions of protestors — including huge numbers within the United States — have hit the streets all over the world in support of the Palestinian struggle and against Israeli colonization and land theft.

The tide is turning, and the days of the Israeli apartheid regime are numbered.

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