October 17, 2023 | Flash Brief

Gaza Hospital Suffers Explosion, Islamic Jihad Misfire Implicated

October 17, 2023 | Flash Brief

Gaza Hospital Suffers Explosion, Islamic Jihad Misfire Implicated

Latest Developments

Hamas and Islamic Jihad quickly blamed Israel after a Gaza City hospital was damaged by an explosion on October 17. However, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), stated on X that an analysis of IDF operational systems indicated “an enemy rocket barrage” toward Israel passed “in the vicinity of the hospital when it was hit.” He added that several intelligence sources indicated that the incident was caused when one of the rockets misfired and exploded. Hagari told the Associated Press that radar detected rocket fire outgoing from Gaza at the time of the explosion, and that intercepted communications between militant groups implicated Islamic Jihad. Unverified reports from Hamas officials indicate between 300 and 500 people were killed in the explosion.

The Jordanian government canceled a planned summit between President Joe Biden, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman following the incident. Anti-Israel protests erupted across Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and the West Bank.

Expert Analysis

“As a pioneer of suicide bombings, Islamic Jihad has long made clear its willingness to kill Palestinians in order to kill Israelis. The latest fighting across the Gaza Strip border took the group’s tactical nihilism up a notch: Its rockets reportedly caused 300 to 500 Palestinian casualties. More Palestinian civilians will die as Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s zeal to kill Israeli civilians — backed by their Iranian patron — will continue to overwhelm any concern for the lives of the Palestinian people.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Islamic Jihad is just as brutal as the other Iran-backed terrorist groups in this theater. However, it lacks the capabilities that Iran has provided to Hezbollah and Hamas. The group’s rockets have fallen on the Gaza population several times in recent years. The current Arab street outrage is not likely to shift, even after the facts have been revealed. These protests are an attempt to rally around the terror groups of Gaza, even after their slaughter of 1,300 Israelis. This is an effort to shift the narrative. Israel remains defiant, however, insisting that the Iran-backed terrorists must all be removed.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

Islamic Jihad Uses Inaccurate Rockets

Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, has a long record of friendly fire against Gazans. During Operation Breaking Dawn in 2022, misfired Islamic Jihad rockets killed 16 civilians in Gaza, exceeding the 11 civilian casualties from IDF airstrikes. According to IDF estimates, 200 out of a total of 1,100 rockets launched by the group — about 18 percent — malfunctioned or fell short of their targets. On May 10, 2023, Islamic Jihad rockets killed four Palestinian civilians, three of them children, after falling short within the Gaza Strip.

The IDF claims that 450 rockets fired by Hamas or Islamic Jihad since the beginning of the war have landed in Gaza, “endangering and harming the lives of Gazan residents.”

Human Shields

Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist groups including Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah often operate from highly populated areas, using the threat of civilian casualties to shield their fighters and weapons from lawful attack, thereby violating international law. The use of human shields violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law. During the May 2021 Gaza conflict, several outside observers publicly reported Hamas’ uses of civilians as human shields for its weapons and fighters. The Associated Press found that “Palestinian fighters are clearly operating in built-up residential areas and have positioned tunnels, rocket launchers and command and control infrastructure near schools, mosques, and homes.”

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians,” by Mark Dubowitz and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Misfired Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill Palestinian Children,” FDD Flash Brief

Human Shields Allegedly Used by Iran-Backed Islamic Jihad,” FDD Flash Brief


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