Hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli air raid on a hospital in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian authorities.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Tuesday that at least 500 people were killed in the attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in central Gaza.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
The Hamas group, which governs the Palestinian territory, said the attack was a “war crime”.
Images shared on social media appeared to show fire engulfing the building, widespread damage and bodies scattered in the wreckage.
Since Israel began pounding Gaza from the air on October 7 following an unprecedented attack by Hamas inside Israel, tens of thousands of people seeking refuge from the bombardment have fled to hospitals throughout Gaza.
Israel blamed the blast at the hospital on a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied responsibility.
Following the attack, anti-Israel protests erupted in the occupied West Bank and several cities across the Middle East, while Jordan cancelled a summit scheduled for Wednesday that was due to attended by the presidents of the United States, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the targeting of the hospital was a “hideous war massacre” that could not be tolerated and withdrew from the meeting in Amman.
UN slams Israel, Russia demands proof
The devastating attack on the hospital came on the eve of a trip to Israel by US President Joe Biden. The visit is expected to see him reaffirm US backing for Israel and try to stop the Israel-Hamas war from spiralling into wider conflict.
As world leaders condemned the attack on the hospital, Russia’s foreign ministry called on Israel to provide satellite images to prove that it was not involved.
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Radio Sputnik that the attack was a shocking “dehumanising” crime.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was “horrified” by the attack on the hospital.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, he condemned the Hamas attacks against civilians in Israel, but said “those attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of Palestinian people”.
He called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and made appeals to “ease the epic human suffering”.
The World Health Organization also condemned the attack and demanded the immediate protection of civilians and healthcare in the Palestinian enclave.
“WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital”, the UN health agency’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on the social media platform X.
Egypt also denounced the attack “in the strongest terms”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “It’s not acceptable to hit a hospital.”
Reporting from Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said the area where the air raid hit was “full of displaced people”.
“This area [where the bombing occurred] is densely populated, full of commercial shops, residential buildings, and even was full of displaced people who have evacuated their houses after receiving orders from the IOF to evacuate,” said Azzoum.
“Those people have been evacuated from the northern area, they just only moved to the central area of the Gaza Strip, to this hospital, because they believed that this hospital was quite safe to be away from the Israeli bombardment.”
Medical and rescue workers have previously raised alarm over what they say is a pattern of deliberate targeting of medical vehicles by Israeli attacks.
“When ambulances are trying to reach areas under fire, they are targeted as a message that no one should get inside to evacuate injured or stuck people,” Sohaib Safi, medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) in Gaza, told Al Jazeera earlier last week.
The attack on the hospital comes amid a continuing barrage of Israeli air raids that have killed more than 3,000 people and reduced entire neighbourhoods in Gaza to rubble, according to Palestinian officials.
Israel launched the assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters carried out a surprise attack from the territory on southern Israel.
At least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Israel since October 7, according to Israeli officials and at least 199 others were taken as captives.