TEL AVIV, Israel
US President Joe Biden visited Israel on Wednesday to demonstrate solidarity with the country and assess the cause of the deadly explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital. He stated that the blast was not carried out by the Israeli military, but there were still many people unconvinced about what caused it. Biden’s assessment was based on data provided by his Defense Department. The visit coincides with rising humanitarian concerns in Gaza, where Israel has cut off the flow of food, fuel, and water.
Israel claimed that its radar and independent video showed a rocket fired by Palestinian militants misfired and caused a large explosion just as the blast hit the hospital. However, Islamic Jihad dismissed Israel’s claims, pointing to Israel’s order to evacuate the hospital and reports of a previous strike that wounded four people as proof of an Israeli target.
Biden’s remarks in Tel Aviv addressed both the horrors experienced by Israelis and the growing humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. He expressed deep sadness and outrage at the hospital explosion but also stressed that Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people and has brought them only suffering. He called for ways to encourage life-saving capacity to help the innocent Palestinians caught in the middle of this crisis. Biden’s main message was that the U.S. is firmly behind Israel following the Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,400 people. He promised to continue working with Israel and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians.
Biden and Netanyahu held a meeting in New York, where they discussed the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Netanyahu emphasized the importance of unity and the need for the civilized world to defeat Hamas. The two leaders also discussed sanctions against a group of 10 Hamas members and the Palestinian militant organization’s financial network across Gaza, Sudan, Turkey, Algeria, and Qatar. Biden met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, first responders, and families of victims and those being held hostage by Hamas.
Eli Beer, the founder of a volunteer emergency medical service, said that Biden’s visit uplifted the spirit of the country and all the Jewish people. The grim tone of the meetings contrasted with the optimistic meeting a month ago, where Netanyahu marveled at the possibility of a “historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.” The Israel-Hamas war has significantly weakened the possibility of improved relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Approximately 2,800 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza, and another 1,200 people are believed to be buried under rubble, alive or dead.
Protests in the West Bank and other regions have erupted following a hospital explosion that treated wounded Palestinians and provided shelter for those seeking refuge. The protests have led to President Biden’s plans to visit Jordan, where King Abdullah II was to host meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. However, Abbas withdrew in protest, and the summit was canceled outright. Jordan declared three days of mourning after the explosion, and Safadi said the summit was canceled after speaking with all leaders. Biden’s trip was part of a “mutual” decision to call off the Jordan portion of his trip, and he will speak to Abbas and el-Sissi by phone as he returns to Washington.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, has urged President Biden to use his visit to Israel to stop the carnage against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and allow humanitarian assistance. He also warned against displacement of two million Palestinians and pushing them towards Jordan. There are fears that a new front could erupt along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah operates. Biden’s trip is attempting to gauge the extent of U.S. influence in the Middle East during a tense period.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken worked to broker an aid agreement and developed a plan for aid to enter Gaza and distribute to civilians. However, U.S. officials stressed that Gaza would remain cut off from essential supplies. They also warned that limited Arab tolerance of Israel’s military operations would evaporate if conditions worsened. They projected that condemning Israel by Arab leaders would not only benefit Hamas but also encourage Iran to increase its anti-Israel activity, increasing fears of a regional conflagration.