After an explosion at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City killed more than 500 people on Tuesday evening amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, leaders around the world have reacted with mixtures of horror, condemnation, and confusion as to how this could happen and who is responsible.
In the hours after the blast, Israel and Hamas have each blamed the other for the deadliest single event since Israeli forces began besieging the Gaza Strip after Hamas brutally terrorized Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7.
The tragedy is already beginning to threaten to undermine efforts to prevent the war from escalating into a broader regional conflict. Several surrounding Arab states have responded with outrage, and protests have broken out from Beirut to Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, international organizations have reiterated calls for peace and the protection of civilians throughout the violence.
Here’s what leaders around the world are saying about the hospital blast.
Israel’s military denied attacking the hospital. “We did not strike that,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, spokesperson of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN. “We do not intentionally strike any sensitive facilities, any sensitive facilities, and definitely not hospitals.”
The IDF said in a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “According to intelligence information from a number of sources we have, Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is responsible for the failed rocket launch that hit the hospital.”
The IDF also posted a video that purports to show a misfired rocket causing an explosion.
“The entire world should know: It was barbaric terrorists in Gaza that attacked the hospital in Gaza, and not the IDF,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on X. “Those who brutally murdered our children also murder their own children.”
Hamas and Palestinian officials
The Palestine Islamic Jihad denied accusations that the hospital blast was caused by a misfired rocket from their side as “false and baseless.” The group said in a statement: “The Zionist enemy is trying hard to evade its responsibility for the brutal massacre [it] committed by bombing the Baptist Arab National Hospital in Gaza through [its] usual fabrication of lies, and through pointing the finger of blame at the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.”
In a televised address, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, “The hospital massacre confirms the enemy’s brutality and the extent of his feeling of defeat,” adding that the explosion will mark “a new turning point.”
Haniyeh also said that “the U.S. holds the responsibility of the hospital attack because of the cover it gives to the Israeli aggression.” He then called on all Palestinians “to get out and confront the occupation and the settlers,” and urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to protest against Israel.
Hamas added in a statement on its website: “The international community and the Arab and Islamic countries must shoulder their responsibilities and intervene immediately, now and not tomorrow, to stop the arrogance of the occupation and its fascist army, and hold it accountable for the genocide it has been committing for eleven days.”
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health on Facebook said the blast was a “massacre” of hundreds of people, most of which were “sick, women, and children,” with effects “beyond description.”
Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., also accused Israel of carrying out the blast and “changing the story” to blame the Palestinians. “It is a lie,” Mansour said at a news conference at the U.N. headquarters, pointing to the Israel military’s evacuation order for hospitals. “Their intention is evacuate or hospitals will be hit and they are responsible for that crime and they cannot fabricate stories to deal with it.”
Shortly after the hospital explosion, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, canceled his scheduled meeting with Biden in Jordan and declared three days of mourning, according to state media reports.
President Joe Biden, who is en route to the Middle East, condemned the hospital blast in a statement released by the White House on Tuesday, saying that he was “outraged and deeply saddened.” He noted that U.S. officials are continuing to gather information about what happened but stated that the U.S. “stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict.”
White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Biden, when he arrives in Tel Aviv, would have “tough questions” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The incident has also emboldened progressive opponents of Israel’s deadly incursions into Gaza over the last week. In a post on X, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, directed her anger toward Biden, saying “this is what happens when you refuse to facilitate a ceasefire & help de-escalate.” She added: “Your war and destruction only approach has opened my eyes and many Palestinian Americans and Muslims Americans like me. We will remember where you stood.”
In the wake of the hospital explosion, Biden’s trip to Amman, Jordan’s capital, where he was set to meet with Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, was abruptly canceled by Jordanian authorities, who said in a statement that the summit would “not be able to stop the war currently.”
The Jordanian government, which also announced three days of mourning after the hospital explosion, said on Tuesday that it would no longer hold the summit in its capital because of what state media described in a post on X as the “Israeli massacre.”
King Abdullah II said that the hospital blast was “a heinous war crime that cannot be ignored,” according to a post on X by Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court.
The U.N.’s World Health Organization condemned the bombing of the hospital in Gaza in a statement, saying: “International humanitarian law must be abided by, which means health care must be actively protected and never targeted.”
The WHO claimed that the hospital was one of 20 in the northern part of Gaza that had received evacuation orders from the Israeli military that were “impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced.”
On X, U.N. António Guterres Secretary-General, also condemned the strike, saying that he was “horrified” by the killing of hundreds of Palestinians and reiterating that hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law. “My heart is with the families of the victims,” he said.
“The UK has been clear,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on X. “The protection of civilian life must come first. The UK will work with our allies to find out what has happened and protect innocent civilians in Gaza.”
Iran’s foreign ministry condemned Israel for the “heinous attack,” according to state media.
Its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said in a speech posted on X just hours before the hospital explosion on Tuesday that “the U.S. is responsible for the recent crimes.”
“If the crimes of the Zionist regime continue, no one can stop the Muslims and the resistance forces,” the post was captioned.
Iran, known for backing Islamist militia groups including Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah, has warned of “preemptive” attacks should Israel go ahead with a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip. On Monday, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian—after he returned from a tour where he met with leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria—said on a television broadcast that “any preemptive measure is imaginable in the coming hours.”
“After the terrible crime of the Zionist regime in the bombing and massacre of more than a thousand innocent women and children in the hospital the time has come for the global unity of humanity against this fake regime more hated than ISIS and its killing machine,” Amirabdollahian posted on X after the hospital explosion, adding, “Time is over”—a sentiment echoed by the Iranian embassy in Syria, which also posted on X: “time is up.”
On Wednesday, Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia based in Lebanon and an ally of Hamas, called for a “day of rage against the enemy” after the hospital blast. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the French and U.S. embassies in Lebanon’s capital and threw stones at the buildings, chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel,” AFP reported. The Beirut government announced the closure of schools across the country on Wednesday.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a post on X that the hospital attack “constitutes one of the most heinous and bloodiest massacres against humanity in the modern era.”
He added in another post that Syria holds Western countries, especially the U.S., “responsible for this massacre and other massacres, as it is a partner of the Zionist entity in all organized killing operations against the Palestinian people.”
“Striking a hospital where there are women, children, and innocent civilians is the latest example of Israel’s attacks devoid of fundamental human values,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a post on X. “I invite all humanity to take action to stop this unprecedented brutality in Gaza.”
“Saudi Arabia condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces by bombing Al Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Kingdom also stresses the necessity of opening safe corridors immediately, in response to the distress calls made by countries and organizations to deliver food and medicine to civilians trapped in Gaza and to hold the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for their continued repeated violations of all international norms and laws.”
The Egyptian foreign affairs ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel should “immediately cease its collective punishment policies against the people of the Gaza Strip.”
The statement also demanded that Israel “stop targeting” the Rafah crossing, the only passageway between Gaza and Egypt, which has been shut for more than a week after it was hit by repeated airstrikes by Israel. It remains unclear who’s behind the blockage of the crossing, which has delayed the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza, as its residents run dangerously low on food, water, and crucial medical supplies.
The Egyptian foreign ministry called for intervention from countries around the world to allow Egypt, other authorities, and relief organizations “to implement humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible.”
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev described the blast on messaging app Telegram as “clearly a war crime,” adding that the U.S. is to blame for the tragedy: “The final responsibility for it lies with those who cynically make money from wars in different countries and on different continents. Who thoughtlessly distributes colossal amounts of money for weapons, loading up their military-industrial complex. Who falsely proclaims their global mission to protect democratic values. USA.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry said, “I recall the catch phrase repeatedly voiced by [former U.S. President Barack] Obama that, thanks to American policy, the world had become much safer. Well, now we all see by ‘how much’.”
The foreign ministry added on Wednesday, according to Reuters, that Israel should provide satellite images to prove that it was not involved in the explosion.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, the country’s deputy envoy to the U.N., said on X that Russia, alongside the United Arab Emirates and China, has proposed that the U.N. insert a condemnation of the blast into a Brazilian-drafted resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The U.N. Security Council will vote on that resolution Wednesday.
Red Cross and Red Crescent
Constituent members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the world’s largest humanitarian network, uniformly condemned the hospital blast.
“No patient should be killed in a hospital bed,” the International Committee of the Red Cross posted on X in response to the explosion. “No doctors should lose their lives while trying to save others. Hospitals must be protected under international humanitarian law.”
“Even war has rules!” Francesco Rocca, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies posted on X. The IFRC posted that it was “shocked and dismayed” over the loss of life in the incident. “There are no words to describe the level of human suffering,” the organization said. “Patients and people seeking refuge were killed. Hospitals must be sanctuaries for all.”
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said in a statement on X that it is “appalled and horrified” by the hospital explosion and that it has repeatedly called on the international community to pressure Israel into rescinding evacuation orders for hospitals. “This war crime comes despite frequent declarations and pleas by these hospitals that these orders are impossible to implement, and that they constitute a death sentence for patients,” the statement said. “The silence of the international community only emboldens such acts and increases the danger to the lives of innocent civilians.”