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NY Times headlines buttressed claims Israel bombed Gaza hospital; Mideast ignites

A view of the parking lot of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital after it was hit in Gaza City on Oct. 18.
by WorldTribune Staff, October 19, 2023

The Arab and Muslim world exploded in protest on Wednesday after legacy media, including The New York Times, amplified Hamas propaganda which claimed that a hospital in Gaza was bombed by Israel, resulting in 500 deaths.

"Israel Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say," the NY Times headline blared.

By that time, independent media, including, had reported that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had proof that the hospital had been hit by a misfired rocket launched by the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.

American leftist politicians also took the Hamas propaganda bait.

“Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that. @POTUS this is what happens when you refuse to facilitate a ceasefire & help de-escalate,” Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib said in a tweet that is still live.

Even Joe Biden has admitted (though he was reading from note cards when he said it) that Israel did not bomb the hospital. Footage which emerged from the scene on Wednesday morning showed damage to a parking lot but the hospital building intact.

The IDF stated: “Analysis of our aerial footage confirms that there was no direct hit of the hospital itself."

The amount of damage at the site also appears inconsistent with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry’s assertion that 500 people were killed.

“At the moment, the preponderance of evidence does point to it being a Hamas or PIJ rocket hitting the area,” said Blake Spendley, an open-source intelligence analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank in Virginia. He said videos and photos he has reviewed showing the scene were more consistent with a death toll of about 50 rather than the 500 initially claimed by Hamas.

But the irresponsible reporting by the NY Times and those who amplified it like Tlaib had already inflamed the Arab world. The Washington Post made things worse with the headline: "Gaza Hospital Tragedy Escalates War Risk, No Matter Who's to Blame."

"Angry protests across Muslim world after Gaza hospital strike," an AFP headline read on Wednesday.

"The Israelis will try to target more hospitals, rescue workers, civil defense volunteers and Gaza's residents without flinching, in order to push Gaza's people out," senior Hizbullah official Hashem Safieddine told the demonstrators in Beirut.

Arab nations on Wednesday continued to blame Israel for the hospital incident even though the evidence showing otherwise had been reported on Tuesday.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which both established ties with Israel in the Abraham Accords of 2020, criticized Israel for being behind the strike.

"The United Arab Emirates strongly condemns the Israeli attack... resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of people," the UAE's official WAM news agency said early on Wednesday.

Bahrain's foreign ministry "expressed the Kingdom of Bahrain's condemnation and strong denunciation of the Israeli bombing," the Bahrain News Agency said.

Saudi Arabia, which has halted talks on potential ties with Israel since violence flared, called the blast a "heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces."

Qatar, one of Hamas's main backers, slammed the "brutal massacre."

Morocco, another country that recognized Israel in 2020, also blamed it for the strike, as did Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet slammed the NY Times: "Yesterday, at 6:59PM Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of around 10 rockets to Israel. One of the rockets misfired (fairly common event) and hit the parking lot of the Al-Ahli Hospital, killing many innocent people. Hamas immediately understood that this was the Islamic Jihad’s rocket, and launched a massive lie campaign, blaming Israel. The New York Times immediately adopted Hamas’ version, peddling this lie for hours."

Bennett added: "New York Times: Shame on you. Apologize now for this slander. Aren’t you supposed to check facts? Isn’t that your claim to fame? Is there a special exemption from fact-checking when it’s the Jewish State involved?"

In addition to the aerial footage showing the rocket was not one of Israel's, there is a recording of Hamas terrorists discussing the strike, describing the shrapnel at the site as "local" and "not Israeli."

“We have none of the indicators of an airstrike — none,” said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an expert on military and security issues.

The U.S. has collected “high confidence” signals intelligence indicating that the blast at the hospital in Gaza was caused by Islamic Jihad, U.S. officials said, buttressing Israel’s contention that it wasn’t responsible for the blast.

Reading from prepared notes in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden said Israel’s version of events appeared more accurate based on information he had received from the Defense Department.

“Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team,” Biden said. “But there’s a lot of people out there not sure, so we’ve got a lot — we’ve got to overcome a lot of things.”

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesman, told a news conference that there had been no Israeli strike in the hospital area. Hagari shared what he said was an intercepted conversation between two unidentified Hamas operatives saying the rocket was fired by militants from a cemetery near the hospital.

Hagari said the blast took place in the parking lot of the hospital and that the hospital building itself didn’t suffer structural damage. He shared a photo of the burned-out parking lot, saying there was no deep crater at the site of the blast, an indication there hadn’t been an aerial strike. Hagari said the rocket’s residual propellant—fuel that boosts the rocket toward its destination—explains why the explosion was so powerful.

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gazahospital by Ali Jadallah is licensed under Anadolu Getty Images

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