Minutes after 1 a.m. Friday, as active fighting raged between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, a projectile streaked over Gaza’s largest medical complex and crashed into the center of the courtyard of Al-Shifa Hospital, a place where thousands of displaced Gazans had sought shelter.
It landed just a few feet from Ahmed Hijazi, a social media personality who has been documenting the conflict. He filmed a video of the projectile flying in, and then of a man in agony, his leg mangled by the impact.
It was the first of at least four strikes involving multiple munitions on different sections of the sprawling complex between 1 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday morning. Al-Shifa’s director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya, said in a phone interview that seven people had been killed and several others had been wounded.
Hours after the final blast, the Israeli military blamed unspecified Palestinian militants, saying a “misfired projectile” aimed at Israel Defense Forces troops deployed nearby had instead hit the hospital.
But at least three of the projectiles that struck it appear to have been Israeli munitions, according to pictures of weapons fragments collected and verified by The New York Times and analyzed by experts.
The strikes did not cause mass casualties, but Israel is under increasing international pressure to avoid targeting hospitals. Al-Shifa has emerged as a particular flashpoint: Israel contends it has evidence that the hospital sits on top of an underground Hamas command center and has been warning those still inside to evacuate, even as its troops have been actively working to surround the facility. Hospital officials deny Hamas operates there and have said patients are dying for lack of food, fuel and other supplies.
Israel’s assertion that Al-Shifa was actually hit by a Palestinian projectile echoed similar — and unresolved — claims and counterclaims following munitions that hit the courtyard of another Gaza hospital, Al-Ahli, nearly a month ago.
The evidence reviewed by The Times from Al-Shifa points more directly to strikes by Israel — whether on purpose or by accident is unclear.
In addition to the weapons remnants, an analysis of video footage shows that three of the projectiles were fired into the hospital from the north and south, contrary to the western trajectory indicated on a map released by the I.D.F., which it said was based on radar detections. A review of satellite images showed there were I.D.F. positions north and south of the hospital early Friday.
The strikes analyzed by The Times did not appear to be targeting underground infrastructure. Two of the most severe strikes hit upper floors of the maternity ward. [Continue reading…]