Updated Oct 18, 2023 - World

Gaza hospital blast: Initial U.S. intel assessment is Israel "not responsible"

President Biden speaks alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Israel. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

The current U.S. assessment of Tuesday's deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza is that Israel was "not responsible," according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

Why it matters: The explosion set off a furious response — including large protests in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere in the hours before President Biden's visit to the region. Biden said earlier Wednesday that it appeared the "other team," not Israel, was to blame.

What they're saying: "While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday," said NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

  • That statement came several hours after Biden's remarks upon arriving in Israel: "Based on what I've seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you. But there's a lot of people out there not sure," Biden said.
  • Biden later clarified that he was speaking based on "the data I was shown by my Defense Department."

The latest: The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees both issued statements saying after being briefed on the matter that they were confident the blast was the result of a failed rocket launch and not due to Israeli military action.

  • The IDF released a recording of a conversation between two people it claimed were Hamas operatives. The two individuals say the shrapnel at the hospital doesn't look like it came from Israeli bombs but rather from rockets used by Islamic Jihad. Axios has not independently verified the authenticity of the recording.
  • U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also cast doubt on the idea that Israel was responsible. "Last night, too many jumped to conclusions around the tragic loss of life at Al Ahli hospital. Getting this wrong would put even more lives at risk. Wait for the facts, report them clearly and accurately. Cool heads must prevail," he wrote on X.

Go deeper: Inside Biden's talks with Netanyahu, Israel's war team

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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