Horrified doctors stood among a sea of children killed after a massive blast tore through a hospital in Gaza with fears more than 500 people are dead and scores more are trapped under the rubble.
The huge explosion tore through the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday night while it was being used to treat and shelter thousands of civilians amid the ongoing conflict.
The devastating fireball has sparked a venomous blame game between Hamas and Israel, with both sides blaming armed forces across the border for the destruction and furiously denying it was their fault.
Palestinian officials say the horror explosion was caused by an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) air strike, while officials in the Jewish state insisted it was the result of a ‘failed’ rocket launched by terrorist group Islamic Jihad.
However, the terror group has labelled the claims ‘completely incorrect’ and accused the IDF of ‘trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians’.
The blast threw a visit from US President Joe Biden to the region – in the hopes of showing support for Israel and preventing the war from spreading – into chaos, with a planned meeting involving him, the president of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas, and leaders from Egypt and Jordan cancelled by the Arab nations in protest.
Hellish video taken from the hospital, which was sheltering around 6,000 Palestinians and is funded by the Anglican Church, shows fire engulfing the building and the dozens of bodies strewn over the ground, many of them young children.
Ambulances and private cars rushed some 350 casualties from the al-Ahli blast to Gaza City’s main hospital, al-Shifa, already overwhelmed with wounded from other strikes, said its director, Mohammed Abu Selmia.
‘We are squeezing five beds into a single tiny room. We need equipment, we need medicine, we need beds, we need everything,’ Mr Abu Selmia said, warning that the fuel supply for the hospital’s generators will run out on Wednesday. ‘I think Gaza’s medical sector will collapse within hours.’
In a press conference at al-Shifa doctors stood in a sea of dead children who had been brought from the stricken hospital, holding some of their faces to the cameras to show the horror that had befallen them.
In the immediate aftermath Hamas called the devastation a ‘horrific massacre’ and a ‘crime of genocide’, laying blame at the feet of Israel.
British director of the charity that runs the hospital, Richard Sewell, said: ‘Disaster: our hospital, Ahli Arab hospital has taken a direct hit from an Israeli missile.
‘Early reports say hundreds of women and children killed. This is deliberate killing of vulnerable civilians. The bombs must stop now. There can be no possible justification for this.’
It claimed that the attack had mostly killed people who were homeless after Israeli bombardments had destroyed their houses, with the dead including patients, women and children.