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US govt's assessment shows Israel not responsible for Gaza hospital blast: White House

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Washington: The United States assessed that Israel was not responsible for the attack on a Gaza hospital a day earlier, the White House said on Wednesday.

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“The US government assesses that Israel was not responsible for an explosion that killed hundreds of civilians yesterday at the Al Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip,” White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

“Our assessment is based on available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity, overhead imagery, and open source video and images of the incident,” she said.

Citing intelligence reports, Watson said some Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip believed that the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket or missile launch carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

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“As the President said earlier today, the explosion appears to be the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza -- and we are continuing to work to corroborate whether it was a failed PIJ rocket,” she said.

There were conflicting claims of who was behind the explosion on Tuesday night, but protests flared quickly in the region as many Arab leaders said Israel was responsible. Hamas officials in Gaza quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike, saying hundreds were killed. Israel denied it was involved and released a flurry of video, audio and other information that it said showed the blast was instead due to a rocket misfire by Islamic Jihad, another militant group operating in Gaza. Islamic Jihad dismissed that claim.

During his brief visit to Israel, Biden tried to strike a balance between showing U.S. support for Israel, while containing growing alarm among Arab allies. Upon his arrival, Biden embraced Netanyahu - and expressed concern for the suffering of Gaza's civilians.

Biden said the hospital blast appeared not to be Israel's fault, and he cautioned Israelis not to allow outrage over the deadly Hamas attack to consume them.

Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel resumed Wednesday after a 12-hour lull. Israeli strikes on Gaza continued, including on cities in the south that Israel had described as “safe zones” for civilians.

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