President Joe Biden has said it “appears” that the deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital was “done by the other team” and not at the hands of Israel – as both sides continue to deny responsibility for the attack.
Speaking alongside the Israeli Prime Minister during an extraordinary wartime visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Mr Biden said that he was “deeply outraged and saddened” by the incident which is feared to have killed hundreds of civilians.
“I’m deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday,” he said.
“Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you. But there’s a lot of people out there not sure, so we have to overcome a lot of things,” he said.
When asked later what makes him sure that Israel wasn’t behind the explosion, Mr Biden said that his comments were based on data from the US Defense Department.
“The data I was shown by my defense department,” he said, providing no further details about the evidence.
An explosion rocked the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night, with the death toll expected to be in the hundreds.
Israel has blamed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the attack, saying it was the result of a misfired rocket targeting Israel.
Meanwhile, the PIJ has denied any involvement and Hamas has blamed Israel.
The explosion plunged Mr Biden’s visit into turmoil before he even set off from the White House on Tuesday night.
In the wake of the attack, his Middle East summit in Amman, Jordan, was abruptly cancelled as both King Abdullah and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority suddenly pulled out.
The Biden administration has since tried to downplay the significance of the meetings being axed.
In a briefing with reporters onboard Air Force One en route to Tel Aviv, NSC spokesperson John Kirby insisted that the cancellation was because President Abbas was holding three days of mourning.
“I mean, the main reason that Abbas pulled out of the meeting in Jordan was because of three days of mourning, which is of course completely culturally understandable,” he said.
“I mean, he absolutely had to go home, and we understand that. And without him there, certainly that made it more difficult to have the kind of discussions that we wanted to have in Amman. But again, they’ll speak again on the way home.”
Mr Kirby said that Mr Biden spoke to both King Abdullah and President Abbas on Tuesday night after the hospital explosion – and that he will be speaking to them again on his departure from Israel.
Mr Kirby also said that Mr Biden would be asking “tough questions” of Mr Netanyahu – but “as a true friend”.
“He’ll be asking some tough questions. He’ll be asking them as a friend – as a true friend of Israel. But he will be asking some questions of them,” he said.
Mr Biden landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning for a high-stakes wartime visit which cements the US’s strong show of support for Israel amid its escalating war with Hamas.
The president touched down at around 11am local time where he was greeted by Mr Netanyahu on the tarmac, with the two allies embracing each other.
They then delivered brief remarks at a bilateral meeting, with the Israeli prime minister thanking Israel’s “friend” for its support and Mr Biden condemning Hamas’ attacks.
Mr Netanyahu likened the attacks by Hamas on Israel to “20 9/11s” as he spoke of the significance of the president’s wartime visit.
“I know you share our outrage on this,” he said, saying that this marks the first visit of an American president in Israel at a time of war.
In total, 1,400 people have so far been killed in Hamas attacks on Israel, he said.
“This would be equivalent to 50,000 Americans in a single day,” he said. “That is 20 9/11s.”
Mr Biden doubled down on his administration’s support, vowing that “the US stands with Israel”.
“I want to be here today for a simple reason. I want the people of Israel, the people of the world to know the US stands with Israel,” he said.
“We had the secretary of state but I wanted to personally come to make that clear.”
In a press conference at the end of his visit, Mr Biden urged Israel not to be “consumed by anger” as he doubled down on the US’s support while also pledging $100m in US humanitarian aid to Palestinians displaced by the war.
In powerful remarks, he likened the attacks by Hamas on Israel to the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.
“I caution this while you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes,” he said.
“I’ve made wartime decisions. I know the choices are never clear or easy for leadership. There’s always cost. It requires being deliberate.
“It requires asking very hard questions. It requires clarity about the objectives, and an honest assessment about whether the path you’re on while achieve those objectives.”
He also said that the Hamas attacks “brought to the surface painful memories of antisemitism” seen in the Holocaust.
“The brutality we saw would have cut deep anywhere in the world, but it cuts deeper here in Israel. October 7th, which was a sacred to -- a sacred Jewish holiday, became the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people,” he said.
While he said the world watched that happen back then, he vowed this time around that won’t happen.
“The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever,” he said.
He insisted that Israel is “not alone”: “I come to Israel with a single message: you’re not alone, you’re not alone. As long as the US stands – it will stand forever – you will not be alone.”
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