Biden accepts Israel’s take on hospital blast
JTA – United States President Joe Biden arrived in Israel with a message of solidarity, saying that he accepted the Israeli assessment that a blast at a Gaza hospital was the fault of Palestinian militant groups.
Speaking to the press in Tel Aviv alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said the evidence Israeli officials presented him was persuasive. But he indicated it wasn’t likely to tamp down the eruption of angry protests across the Arab world.
“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion of the hospital in Gaza yesterday, and based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” he said. “But there’s a lot of people out there not sure, so we’ve got to overcome a lot of things.”
The Israeli army posted what it said was intercepted audio of Palestinian terrorists, one of whom was explaining that he believed the blast at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City was caused by a misfired rocket aimed at Israel. The blast reportedly killed hundreds, including those who had survived other blasts.
Israel says the rocket was fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller terrorist group that is at times at odds with the Hamas terror group. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have both publicly blamed Israel.
Before Biden took off from Washington, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, John Kirby, said he expected the president and Netanyahu to have difficult conversations.
“He’s going to get a sense from the Israelis about the situation on the ground and, more critically, their objectives, their plans, their intentions in the days and weeks ahead,” Kirby said. “He’ll be asking some tough questions.”
Upon arrival, Biden appeared to be only sympathetic, stepping off Air Force One before anyone else and signalling Netanyahu to come forward for a hug. In a later press opportunity with top officials from both countries, Biden sounded a note of solidarity.
“I want you to know you’re not alone,” Biden told Netanyahu. “As I emphasised earlier, we’ll continue to have Israel’s back as you work to defend your people. We’ll continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy.”
Biden had hoped to advance plans for bringing relief to Gaza’s residents as Israel retaliates against Hamas with air strikes and plans for a major ground incursion aimed at destroying Hamas. But plans for Biden to meet in Amman, Jordan, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Jordanian King Abdullah were scuttled when the Arab leaders pulled out amid anger at Israel over the hospital explosion.
Biden isn’t just meeting political leaders on his trip. Amir Tibon, a journalist with Haaretz whose family’s story of rescue on 7 October has captured international attention, posted a picture of six Israelis who have become local heroes since the attack, saying, “Israelis with an interesting story to tell are waiting for President Biden.”