The video shows a projectile streaking through the darkened skies over Gaza and exploding in the air. Seconds later, another explosion is seen on the ground.
The footage has become a widely cited piece of evidence as Israeli and American officials have made the case that an errant Palestinian rocket malfunctioned in the sky, fell to the ground and caused a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City.
But a detailed visual analysis by The New York Times concludes that the video clip — taken from an Al Jazeera television camera livestreaming on the night of Oct. 17 — shows something else. The missile seen in the video is most likely not what caused the explosion at the hospital. It actually detonated in the sky roughly two miles away, The Times found, and is an unrelated aspect of the fighting that unfolded over the Israeli-Gaza border that night.
The Times’s finding does not answer what actually did cause the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital blast, or who is responsible. The contention by Israeli and American intelligence agencies that a failed Palestinian rocket launch is to blame remains plausible. But the Times analysis does cast doubt on one of the most-publicized pieces of evidence that Israeli officials have used to make their case and complicates the straightforward narrative they have put forth.
Israeli officials and Palestinian militants blame each other for the Al-Ahli Arab explosion. Multiple videos assembled and analyzed by The Times show that militants were firing dozens of rockets from southwest of the hospital minutes before the blast, and the fiery explosion at the hospital is consistent with a failed rocket falling well short of its target with unspent fuel.
The footage also suggests that Israeli bombardment was taking place and that two explosions near the hospital can be seen within two minutes of it being struck. Maj. Nir Dinar, an Israeli military spokesman, told The Times that military forces were not striking “within a range that endangered the hospital,” but declined to say how far away the nearest strike was.