A hospital blast in Gaza has sparked further controversy amid fighting between Israel and terrorist group Hamas.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Tuesday's explosion at the al-Ahli Arab hospital was caused by an Israeli airstrike, which it claimed killed 471 and wounded 342 others. But Israel argued the blast was the result of a misfire by other Palestinian militants who were firing a barrage of rockets nearby at the time.
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner joined Scripps News to share his nation's perspective.
Lerner said when the blast happened, IDF recognized it as a "substantial incident" that warranted an investigation. He said the military mobilized a thorough, high-level investigation which included utilizing intelligence, operational data and aerial footage.
"When we compiled and [sorted] out what exactly was happening, we were able to come to three very, very clear conclusions," Lerner told Scripps News.
First, Lerner said, there were no IDF operations in that area — "no airstrikes, no ground strikes, and no naval strikes."
Second, IDF mapped out the trajectory of the rockets being fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad at the time to determine exactly where they were headed and what they were passing over.
"Indeed they were passing over the al-Ahli Hospital," Lerner said.
Third, Lerner said, IDF intercepted a conversation between Hamas terrorists admitting to what Israel believes to be true.
"Our intelligence intercepted a conversation between two Hamas terrorists admitting that there was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fired, and it actually fell on the al-Ahli Hospital — and they actually named the hospital," Lerner said.
Lerner said the military review of the incident came to a "very, very clear" conclusion that the blast was not the result of a deliberate hospital strike.
He said the Israeli military values life and tries to operate in a way that keeps civilians and terrorist targets separate.
"Hospitals are not a target; we would never target a hospital," Lerner told Scripps News, saying the military is confident in its investigation.
Regardless of the investigation, Hamas still says Israel was responsible.
"I think that this is actually a war of deception by Hamas," Lerner said. "They were able to manipulate — for many hours until we were able to conclude our investigation — the perception. And indeed, it created a huge rallying of people around the world and especially in some of our Arab neighbors here. And it created a very serious drama on the ground.
"Of course, it is a tragedy for the people at the hospital that were killed in the event, in this explosion, but it was not the IDF," Lerner said.
Throughout the day Tuesday, airstrikes killed dozens of civilians and a prominent Hamas leader.
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