Remains of a tank shell on the fourth floor of Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital in the east of Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The damage caused to the al-Wafaa hospital in Gaza Tuesday-Wednesday and the warnings given to the hospital were not an attack on the hospital or an evacuation warning, a military official has told the Jerusalem Post.
The damage to three of the hospitals floors in at least two separate incidents and multiple telephone warnings to evacuate has been widely reported in the media and by human rights groups.
This version of the incident also would have worked well within the general Israeli narrative of a readiness to attack civilian locations if the IDF decides they are being used by military targets and the IDF issues prior warnings.
Also, on July 12, a disabled center was hit, it appears by mistake, by the IDF.
But a deeper initial investigation by the IDF, reported here by the Post for the first time indicates that there was no firing directly on the hospital, but only on a group of military targets, including combatants firing rockets on Israel in real-time.
Also, the military official said that an initial deeper review of the incident indicates that the hospital was not told to evacuate, as has been reported.
Rather, said the official, the warning was that rockets were being shot directly from the hospital area, that Israel intended to hit those firing the rockets and that at the very least, if the hospital could not be evacuated, patients should move away from the windows.
In this narrative, the damage to the hospital was the unintentional indirect result of attacking the nearby rocket launchers.
IDF Maj. Gen Noam Tibon will be investigating all such incidents even more fully and may even eventually report other conclusions, but this is by far the most in-depth and specific version of events that the IDF has given on this incident to date.
The damage to the hospital and the idea that the IDF was warning all of its patients to evacuate was seen as particularly controversial because the B'Tselem human rights group has said that the hospital has 17 patients, between the ages of 14 and 95, all suffering from different degrees of paralysis.
B'Tselem had also added that "there is no other rehabilitative institute in the area where patients can be transferred. These patients require special conditions that cannot be recreated," implying that a transfer not to a special rehabilitative hospital could be life-threatening.
The military official's version that there were rocket launchers in the hospital's vicinity receives some support from UNRWA's recent confirmation that terror groups had secretly hidden rockets in one of their Gaza facilities, breaking rules of neutrality.
Several attempts to receive an updated response from Hospital Director Basman al-‘Ashi before press time were unsuccessful.
The IDF may still, at a later date, decide to pay compensation to the hospital or to other innocents caught up in the war and may still be at risk for allegations of war crimes for various incidents.
But, if true, the new details would likely clear the IDF from the worst accusations in this particular incident.