By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) – A blast at a Gaza hospital was not the result of an Israeli missile strike, but likely caused by a misfiring Palestinian rocket, the French military intelligence directorate (DRM) said on Friday.
Palestinian officials said 471 people were killed in the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital on Tuesday. Gaza’s health ministry blamed an Israeli air strike, while Israel said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by militants.
“There is nothing that allows us to say that it is an Israeli strike, but the most likely (scenario) is a Palestinian rocket that had a firing incident,” the DRM said.
An unclassified U.S. intelligence report seen by Reuters on Thursday said it judged that Israel was not responsible for the blast and estimated the death toll at 100-300 people.
According to the DRM, the impact crater was too small to have been caused by an Israeli missile.
“The most likely hypothesis is a Palestinian rocket, which exploded with a charge of about 5 kilos,” the DRM told reporters, adding that Palestinian groups had small-calibre rockets with that sort of explosive charge.
The DRM does not usually release such information, but on the instruction of President Emmanuel Macron decided to make its findings public given the contrasting accounts about who is responsible.
It ruled out various possibilities, including fragments from Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system or intercepted missiles being the cause.
Part of the analysis was based on open-source material ranging from the light structural damage at the hospital, including some broken windows, few destroyed vehicles and the relatively limited presence of civilian belongings at the blast site.
The DRM could not give the exact departing point of the failed rocket and did not place blame on any specific group.
It declined to estimate the death toll, but said that it was likely to be fewer than 471 given the impact.
Israel has responded to an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 Israelis by vowing to destroy the group, putting the 2.3 million people living in Gaza under siege. Strikes against the enclave have killed more than 4,100 people and left more than a million homeless.
Israel is also preparing a ground offensive.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Chris Reese and Rod Nickel)