Gaza’s health ministry spokesman said an Israeli air strike on Tuesday killed hundreds of people at a hospital in the Palestinian enclave, but Israel said a Palestinian barrage had caused the blast.
The death toll was by far the highest of any single incident in Gaza during the current violence, triggering protests in the occupied West Bank, Istanbul and Amman.
The Palestinian Authority’s health minister, Mai Alkaila, accused Israel of “a massacre” at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital. The strike killed hundreds of people and occurred during Israel’s intense 11-day bombing campaign in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “barbaric terrorists” in Gaza had attacked the hospital, not Israel’s military.
The health ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qudra, said early on Wednesday that hundreds were killed and that rescue workers were still removing bodies from the rubble. In the first hours after the blast, a Gaza civil defence chief said 300 people were killed, while health ministry sources put the figure at 500.
Israeli Military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters rockets fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group passed by the hospital at the time of the strike, which he said hit the facility’s parking lot.
Another spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, told CNN the military intercepted a conversation in which militants acknowledged a misfire. He said the military would release a recording of the conversation.