Rishi Sunak: Missile fired from within Gaza hit Al Ahli Arab Hospital, British intelligence shows

The prime minister said the 'misreporting of this incident had a negative effect in the region' and stirred up 'tensions' in the UK


British intelligence shows Gaza's Al Ahli Arab Hospital was "likely" hit by a missile fired from within Palestinian territory, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced.

After an explosion took place in a courtyard at the hospital last Tuesday night, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health blamed an Israeli missile strike. The claim was widely shared by major media outlets within minutes, without verification.

Later analysis of the scene and video of the blast revealed the most probable cause to be a misfiring rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists, however.

Early reports, citing Hamas's Ministry of Health, stated between 500 and 800 people had been killed. Estimates now vary, with US intelligence sources putting the figure at between 150 and 300 people.

Speaking to Parliament today, Sunak said: "As I indicated last week, we have taken care to look at all the evidence currently available.

"I can now share our assessment with the House. On the basis of the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence and weapons experts, the British Government judges that the explosion was likely caused by a missile or part of one that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel.

"The misreporting of this incident had a negative effect in the region, including on a vital US diplomatic effort, and the tensions here at home."

The prime minister condemned news outlets for pinning the blame for the blast on Israel before any investigation could take place.

"The misreporting of this incident had a negative effect in the region – including on a vital US diplomatic effort – and on tensions here at home," he said.

"We need to learn the lessons and ensure that in future there is no rush to judgment."

Earlier today, the New York Times published a correction to their early reporting of the attack.

"The Times’s initial accounts attributed the claim of Israeli responsibility to Palestinian officials, and noted that the Israeli military said it was investigating the blast," it wrote.

"[Early coverage] relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.”

Sunak's assessment chimes with that of US President Joe Biden, who - after arriving in Israel the day following the attack - declared his support for the Jewish state and said it looks like "the other team did it".

An analysis by the Associated Press news agency also concluded that while there is no "definitive proof" concerning who bombed Al-Ahli, satellite imagery and videos of the strike indicate that a rocket fired from within Gaza broke up in the air before hitting the compound.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sunak also said that he is doing "all in my powers" to secure the release of Israeli hostages.

Discussing his trip to Israel, he said: "In my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror.

"And I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians.

"It was a message delivered by a close friend and ally. I say it again, we stand with Israel."

Announcing a further £20 million of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, Sunak said he welcomed the partial opening of Egypt's Rafah crossing and that he is working to bring more "desperately needed" water, fuel, food and medicine into the Palestinian territory.

He added: "We're also working intensively to ensure that British nationals trapped in Gaza are able to leave through the Rafah crossing when it properly reopens."

Rejecting "hyperbole and simplistic solutions," the prime minister said: "It is a time for quiet and dogged diplomacy that recognises the hard realities on the ground and delivers help now. 

"And we have an important role to play. In all of my meetings, people were clear that they value Britain’s engagement. The UK’s voice matters. We have deep ties across the region – ties of defence, trade and investment, but also of history. 

"President Abbas pointed to that history. Not the British mandate in Palestine or the Balfour Declaration but the UK’s efforts over decades to support the two-state solution."

Combatting Hamas and the Iranian regime, he added, is essential to establish "more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank".

Concluding his statement, Sunak vowed: "We will never tolerate antisemitism in our country."

He added: "Calls for jihad on our streets are not only a threat to the Jewish community, but to our democratic values. And we expect the police to take all necessary action to tackle extremism head on... This a moment for great care and caution – but also for moral clarity."

For all the latest from Israel, click here to see all our coverage.

To sign up to our daily war briefing, click here. 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive