Scott Kahn
Director of

Who bombed that hospital?

The scenes of a burning hospital, with hundreds of people likely dead or dying, should sicken any person who has a soul and a conscience.

At 2:06 p.m. eastern time, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that.” At the same time, Keith Olbermann posted, “After the Israeli strike on the Baptist Hospital in Gaza City kills 300-500, @potus cannot in good conscience go to Israel tomorrow.”

At 2:12 p.m., the New York Times tweeted, “An Israeli airstrike hit a Gaza hospital on Tuesday, killing at least 200 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which said the number of casualties was expected to rise.” About 40 minutes later, they updated the tweet by saying, “At least 500 people were killed by an Israeli airstrike at a Gaza hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.”

What was the Israeli army’s response? It didn’t have one. Its spokesman said that they needed to investigate what happened before commenting publicly.

Let’s stop the narrative there, and with no further information, try to figure out whether it was even possible that Israel bombed a hospital.

The answer is that yes, it is possible. One could reasonably think that Israel bombed a hospital in Gaza City.

But because we know that Israel is a moral country with a military that is more careful to avoid civilian casualties than any other military in the world, we would then need to ask why. (And please don’t say that Israel did it because it is vengeful and bloodthirsty. You’re welcome to believe that, but you’re outing yourself as a vile antisemite.)

There are only two possible answers: either it was a tragic mistake, or else the hospital was a valid military target because Hamas used it for military purposes.

Yet we also know that Israel simply does not target hospitals even when said building is used for terrorist activity; Israel has made it clear that bombing hospitals is off the table both because it would be immoral, and also — even if it were militarily necessary — because the optics would be terrible.

Which means that if Israel bombed a hospital in Gaza City, the only reasonable explanation is that it was a tragic mistake.

Who is responsible for that mistake?

The answer is that mistakes are not only possible but almost inevitable when Hamas hides its terrorist infrastructure, supplies, ammunition, and fighters in densely populated civilian areas. Moreover, the enemy does this purposefully, doing everything possible to keep civilians in place as human shields, in order to increase civilian casualties and thereby invite world condemnation to fall upon Israel yet again. Israel knows this; and both because of its moral compass, as well as because the sight of dead innocents hurts its ability to fulfill its military goals, Israel always tries to hit military and terrorist targets alone. The fact that avoiding all civilian casualties is practically impossible gives Israel two choices: either to let Hamas win without a fight, or to do all it can to avoid civilian casualties while accepting that at times, such casualties will, sadly, happen — and it is entirely the fault of Hamas.

So if Israel bombed the hospital, it was a tragic and unintentional mistake. And that blood would be exclusively on the hands of Hamas, which places its fighters in urban areas, making such mistakes (which Hamas welcomes) far more likely.

Again: even if we work with this assumption that Israel did bomb the hospital, it would be absurd and against all of its own doctrines to assume that Israel did it intentionally. Anyone suggesting this is either a fool who doesn’t understand military tactics, or an antisemite who assumes that Israel is bloodthirsty, even when such acts run counter to its own military goals.

Back to the interrupted narrative.

At 4 p.m. eastern time, the Israel Defense Forces announced that a preliminary investigation, including both human intelligence and video surveillance, demonstrated that the hospital in Gaza City was hit by an Islamic Jihad rocket that malfunctioned soon after launch. And at 5:46 p.m., IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari confirmed that conclusion. This is not Israeli propaganda; there are many, many videos that indicate that this explosion had nothing to do with an Israeli strike.

In response to the new information, The Washington Post carried the headline, “Officials in Israel and Gaza are trading blame for the attack.” Bernie Sanders released a statement, comparing the supposed Israeli bombing of the hospital to the slaughter perpetrated by Hamas on Simchat Torah. CNN flipped its headline from “Israel accused of blasting hospital and school in Gaza as blockade cripples health care system” to “Hundreds likely dead in Gaza hospital blast, as Israeli blockade cripples medical response.” (Thanks, I guess.)

Let’s get this straight:

Media outlet after media outlet initially blamed Israel based on the claims of the Palestinian Health Ministry — that is, a Hamas-controlled ministry. This is the same Hamas which has been denying for the past week that it did exactly what its fighters filmed themselves doing, and which countless reporters confirmed was true. Israel, meanwhile, waited until it conducted a preliminary investigation, then provided actual video evidence that it was not at fault. The response has been either the continued acceptance of Hamas’s now-debunked claims, or a shrug along with saying, effectively, there’s no way to know. Just two sides with different claims, albeit one with no evidence and a history of lying, and the other with massive evidence and no reason to have wanted the hospital to have been bombed.

In sum: Islamic Jihad’s failed rocket is the reason that so many people were killed in a Gaza City hospital. Had it been an Israeli strike (and it wasn’t), it would have been an unintentional and horribly tragic mistake, for which Hamas is 100% responsible.

And no one cares. So many are either accepting the Hamas narrative that this was an intentional crime, or the Washington Post narrative that there’s no way to know who’s telling the truth. Because in order for many people to believe an Israeli assertion, the standard of proof is several steps beyond the level of beyond a reasonable doubt. And in order for those same people to believe a Hamas assertion, it merely needs to be asserted.

The above was written on Tuesday night, October 17, 2023, minutes after the IDF confirmed that the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in the Gaza Strip was hit by a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad.
About the Author
Rabbi Scott Kahn is the CEO of Jewish Coffee House ( and the host of the Orthodox Conundrum Podcast and co-host of Intimate Judaism. You can see more of his writing at
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