“The flood of victims and the [severity] of their injuries exceeds the capabilities of the medical teams and ambulances,” Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement posted to Facebook. Images from al-Ahli Hospital on Wednesday morning showed a blackened hospital parking lot filled with burned-out cars.
Officials and doctors said hundreds of families were sheltering in and around the hospital at the time of the attack, hoping the building was less likely to be struck by an airstrike.
It’s unclear who is behind the attack, Palestinian and Israeli officials are blaming each other. Israel’s military said that part of a “barrage of rockets” fired by the Islamic Jihad militant group erroneously hit the area. Hamas maintains an Israeli airstrike hit the site. Neither claim could be immediately verified by The Washington Post.
Hundreds of injured civilians were rushed to Gaza City’s main hospital al-Shifa where doctors reported having to treat the wounded on the hospital floor after running out of beds. Images from the scene showed men, women and children, many covered in dust and blood, crowding into the medical complex for treatment.
Video verified by The Washington Post captures the first sounds of an explosion — a whirring through the air and then a blast. The camera pans to show fire and orange plumes of smoke.
In the hours after the attack, Gaza’s civil defense first responders estimated that 300 people were killed in the explosion. Other officials reported higher death tolls.
The attack prompted renewed calls from humanitarian organizations for the protection of civilians. Aid officials had been issuing increasingly dire warning that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza as Israel wages a devastating campaign of airstrikes against Hamas.
Hospitals in Gaza warned they were already running out of generator fuel, morgues were filling up and overstretched rescue workers reported they were unable to recover over 1,000 bodies from beneath buildings destroyed by airstrikes.
Before the al-Ahli Hospital deaths, more than 2,778 people had been killed in Gaza and nearly 10,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and nearly two-thirds of those killed were children.
Regional leaders also issued calls for an end to the conflict in Gaza. Jordan’s king warned the war “has entered a dangerous phase,” and “will plunge the region into an unspeakable disaster,” according to a palace statement.
President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday in what was supposed to be the first stop on a Middle East tour, but his itinerary began to unravel after mourning periods were announced for victims of the hospital attack.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled his meeting with Biden in Amman alongside the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. Later in the evening, those leaders canceled their planned encounters with Biden as well.
George reported from Jerusalem.