President Biden landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday morning, where he was greeted with an embrace by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Biden was to meet Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders in a show of support amid, and his first remarks were a strong show of that support, as he backed Israel’s firm denial of responsibility for a in the Gaza Strip.
A second diplomatic stop, when Mr. Biden had been set to meet with Arab leaders in Jordan,following Tuesday’s massive hospital blast in Gaza City, which officials in the Hamas-run territory said had killed at least 500 people.
The Biden administration had intended the visit to show the firm U.S. commitment to Israel’s right to self defense, and to try to contain the quickly escalating tension in the region and prevent the war from spreading, but the hospital blast — which Palestinian leaders and neigboring Arab nations quickly blamed on Israel — severely complicated what was already a challenging diplomatic mission for Mr. Biden.
Israel’s military has vehemently denied responsibility for the hospital explosion, blaming a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza that it said fell short and hit a parking lot next to the hospital. The U.S. government has not offered its own formal assessment of the evidence in the blast, but Mr. Biden told Netanyahu that “based on what I’ve seen, it appears it was done by the other team.”
Word of the explosion sparked angry demonstrations in many Arab nations Tuesday night, and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Mr. Biden’s visit follows a grueling 10-stop, five-day trip to the Middle East by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met for seven hours Monday with Israel’s wartime cabinet “to try to work on a framework” to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza, the National Security Council’s.
Relentless Israeli airstrikes and the complete blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel in the wake of Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack have driven roughly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis as food, fuel and water all run desperately short. Palestinian officials said Tuesday that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza had killed about 3,000 people and wounded around 12,500 others, a majority of them women and children.
In Israel, officials say Hamas’ terror attack and ongoing rocket fire have killed some 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. Hamas is said to be holding almost 200. Thirteen U.S. nationals remain unaccounted for.
At least 31 U.S. citizens have been confirmed killed in Israel, and as many as 600 U.S. nationals are thought to be among the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in Gaza.