Palestine: Reconstruction of the Al Ahli hospital massacre in Gaza that set the Islamic world on fire | International

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On the 17th, a strong explosion hit a civilian area of ​​the old city of Gaza, between the neighborhoods of Shejaiya and Zeitun, in the north of the Strip. The first news, both through social networks and information agencies, arrived after eight in the afternoon, local time, one hour less in mainland Spain. Also the first videos of the explosion. One of them, recorded from a house a short distance from the place, geolocated and verified, reproduces the moment in which a descending hiss, similar to that of some type of projectile before impact, precedes the explosion, with a strong and high flare. and columns of smoke.

These first messages reported that the Al Ahli al Arabi hospital had been hit by an Israeli attack. Almost immediately, Hamas accused Israel of bombing the hospital center, where, according to the first communication from the Palestinian militia, between 200 and 300 people had died, while hundreds of wounded remained "in the rubble" - the Gazan health authority He later raised the number of fatalities to 471. After just over three hours, the Israeli army pointed out Islamic Jihad, the second strongest armed group in Gaza, as responsible for what happened through one of its rockets. The massacre unleashed a wave of protests that swept the Arab and Islamic world with a wave of solidarity with the Palestinian cause without recent precedents.

A week later, in the absence of an independent investigation and foreign press on the ground, due to the Israeli blockade of the Strip, it is not possible to identify with certainty what hit the Al Ahli hospital and where it came from. The analysis and verification of the recordings and photographs disseminated during those hours through social networks and the media, as well as the recognition of ground zero of the tragedy on the morning of the 18th, allow us to get closer to what happened. Most of the journalistic and government investigations published indicate that the projectile that caused the death of dozens of civilians in Al Ahli on the afternoon of the 17th was launched from inside Gaza.

Satellite photograph provided by the company Maxar that shows, in the center of the image, that the damage after the explosion is concentrated in the parking lot of the Al Ahli hospital and there is no structural damage to the facilities.

First of all, it is necessary to define what happened at the Al Ahli facilities. According to the Geneva Convention, an “attack” is an act of violence against an adversary. It would be necessary, therefore, to know the reasons for the explosion, in the event that it was caused by some type of projectile; whether Israel deliberately bombed the center, to which it had sent three “evacuation notices” on the 14th, 15th and 16th, according to information from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, to which the hospital is linked, or whether the impact was due to an error in one of the rockets launched that afternoon by the Palestinian militias in the Strip and, therefore, to an accident.

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One of the keys to getting closer to what could have caused the explosion and death of dozens of people in Al Ahli is a live broadcast by the Qatari network Al Jazeera from inside the Strip. The channel has first analyzed images recorded from 6:45 p.m. local time, in which it identifies four Israeli bombings. They occur between 6:54 p.m. and 6:58 p.m. A minute later, the Al Jazeera camera that records one of its reporters live, turns and collects how a light, similar to that left by the rockets of the Palestinian militias, rises at a decreasing speed until it disappears after a burst of light. It's 6:59 p.m. The Qatari channel's investigation team has reported that the projectile was completely intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system.

The images that were seen live on the Al Jazeera network.

This version has been refuted by some analysts consulted this week by Western media: the Iron Dome, in fact and based on recorded experience, is a system that acts when the rockets leaving Gaza are on a downward trajectory and approach a Israeli position, as do other anti-aircraft defense systems. Shortly before Al Jazeera captured the rocket ascending alone, at least two fixed cameras aimed in the direction of Gaza recorded the launch of a long series of projectiles. The cameras were located north of the Strip, in Israeli territory, one from Tel Aviv and another south of Ashkelon, in Netiv Haasara, as verified by the Associated Press agency and the newspaper The Wall Street Journal.

Images obtained from surveillance cameras in the city of Netiv Haasara.

An Israeli statement issued on the 18th put the number of rockets launched in that series at around ten. However, viewing the images recorded from Israeli territory suggests that this number would be closer to twenty projectiles. The army note blamed this, in line with the Israeli version of what happened so far, on Islamic Jihad. Both this group and the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezedin al Qasam Brigades, reported attacks against Israeli territory during the afternoon of the 17th and through their social networks.

The camera located in Tel Aviv records the same rocket alone which, after launching multiple projectiles, flies over with an erratic course. Just a few seconds after it explodes in the sky, following the Al Jazeera footage, a first explosion occurs in the background in an apparently sparsely populated area, followed by a second, which is the one that affects the Al Ahli hospital. Although the registration time (timestamp) of the videos that capture the launch of projectiles coincide, in a sequence that leads to the two explosions on the ground, there is no visual evidence that connects the explosion in the sky of the projectile with the massacre; No projectile or fraction of a rocket can be identified at that time of night in the different recordings.

Images taken from Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv.

Although the first news indicated that the alleged attack had hit the hospital, photographs and recordings taken in daylight, including those captured by Palestinian photojournalist Mohamed al Masri, showed that ground zero of the massacre was located in the parking lot of the hospital center, under the open sky. In those first images from the morning of the 18th, a dozen cars appear completely burned out or badly damaged. About 15 meters away, other vehicles have suffered much lighter damage.

View of the parking lot of the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, on the 18th.
View of the parking lot of the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, on the 18th.STRINGER (REUTERS)

Through these images of the area in broad daylight and based on the size of the parking lot and green areas next to the impact zone - where dozens of people had been taking refuge for days fleeing the Israeli bombings -, experts in geolocation and verification as Nathan Ruser, from the International Cyber ​​Policy Center at the Australian think tank ASPIhave questioned that the number of fatalities amounted to almost half a thousand. The US intelligence service has estimated, according to a document held by Agence France Presse, that the death toll could range between 100 and 300.

One of the photographers on the ground is Mohamed Saber, who distributed through the Efe agency one of the first images of the crater caused by the projectile that hit the Al Ahli parking lot. The hole, shallow and just under a meter in diameter, draws an impact cone that goes from the northeast to the southwest. According to several experts, including US military advisor Marc Garlasco, an expert in the investigation of war crimes, what hit the floor of the parking lot did not come from an air attack. “Even the JDAM [misil guiado] smaller causes a three-meter crater,” Garlasco pointed out in a message on the social network X (Twitter).

Crater caused by the impact of a projectile or part of a projectile in the parking lot of the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, on the 18th.
Crater caused by the impact of a projectile or part of a projectile in the parking lot of the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, on the 18th.MOHAMMED SABER (EFE)

The videos that were recorded from inside the Al Ahli facilities also reveal damage to the facades of some of the center's low buildings, including a Baptist church, remains of the explosion or the effect of the impact of parts of the projectile after hitting with the ground. So far, no photograph or video has identified any remains inside the hospital of what caused the massacre.

One day after the tragedy, US President Joe Biden, on an official trip to Israel, stated that, according to the information in his possession, the origin of the massacre was the failure of a rocket fired from Palestinian territory. The conclusion in the United Kingdom has been the same, reports Rafa del Miguel: “Based on the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence and our weapons experts,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said before the House of Commons on Monday, “the Government considers that the explosion was highly likely caused by by a missile—or part of a missile—that was launched from inside Gaza toward Israel.”

The French espionage investigations coincide with London and Washington. As reported by France Presse, the analysis carried out in Paris has even been able to quantify the explosive charge that collided with Al Ahli at around five kilograms.

Video spread on networks and verified in which the interior of the hospital complex facilities is shown, including a Baptist church.

The level of destruction at the Al Ahli facilities is much lower than that caused by a guided missile and is closer to that which could be caused by a rocket or artillery piece. The force of the projectile in an Israeli attack, as the army itself has disseminated through graphic evidence in the last week or as images from civilian areas in Ukraine hit by Russia attest daily, destroys not only the objective but also the surrounding properties through the shock wave. However, in the aforementioned video that shows the explosion from closer up, recorded from a home, the enormous flare that follows the roar stands out. This could respond to the incendiary effect of the fuel with which the projectile was traveling.

Finally, the forensic analysis of the crater through visual material has allowed one of the best verification projects through open sources, the London-based Forensic Architecture - with brilliant work in the region such as the one that reconstructs the death in Jenin by Israeli fire by journalist Shireen Abu Akhle―, trace the possible direction from which the projectile arrived at the parking lot of the Gaza hospital. According to its analysis and three-dimensional projection, what hit the Al Ahli center came from the northeastern area and not from the southwest, as the Israeli army indicated through its statements in the first hours after the massacre.

Brenda Valverde Rubio has contributed to verifying the images for this article.

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