France’s military intelligence agency has concluded that a misfiring Palestinian rocket was the likely cause of the deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, as Israel and Palestinian officials trade blame over the blast.
The Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) said on Friday that an errant Palestinian rocket with an explosive charge of about 5kg was the likely cause of the blast and none of its intelligence pointed to an Israeli missile strike.
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In a briefing to multiple news agencies, a senior French military official said the size of the explosion was consistent with rockets used by Palestinians and the impact crater was too small to have been caused by an Israeli missile.
The DRM did not offer an estimated death toll but said it was likely lower than the 471 fatalities reported by Palestinian officials, the news agencies reported.
The assessment was based on classified information, satellite imagery, intelligence shared by other countries and open-source information, including images showing light structural damage at the hospital and relatively few civilian belongings at the blast site.
French President Emmanuel Macron directed the DRM, which does not typically make its work public, to share its findings amid conflicting accounts of who carried out the attack.
The French intelligence assessment adds to a flurry of claims and counterclaims about the hospital blast, which has sparked protests across the Middle East.
Palestinian officials have blamed the explosion on an Israeli airstrike, while Israel has said it was caused by a rocket fired by the armed group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has denied responsibility.
An investigation by Al Jazeera, based on video footage, has cast doubt on Israeli statements that a flash captured in a live news broadcast was caused by a misfiring rocket that hit the hospital.
The United States’s National Security Council said earlier this week that its “current assessment” was that Israel was not responsible for the explosion.
Gaza’s health ministry said 471 people were killed in the blast, a death toll Israel said has been deliberately inflated.
US intelligence agencies have estimated the number of victims to be between 100 and 300 people.
On Friday, the United Nations called for an independent investigation into the explosion.
“There is a clear need for an investigation, an independent investigation into what happened,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, said during a news conference in Geneva.
“There needs to be accountability.”
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies