President Joe Biden on Wednesday said it appeared that the deadly blast at a Gaza hospital which had upended plans for a visit to Jordan had been an accident caused by Hamas militants’ inability to accurately target their own weapons.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One during a stop at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, Mr Biden said: “I’m not suggesting that Hamas deliberately did it”.
“It’s that old thing: Gotta learn how to shoot straight,” he said, adding later that the Tuesday explosion, which the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry had falsely attributed to an Israeli airstrike, was “not the first time that Hamas has launched something that didn’t function very well”.
The Israeli government has released intercepted phone calls and other evidence that supports the theory that a botched rocket launch caused the deadly conflagration, though it attributed the weapons accident to a different militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, rather than Hamas.
Mr Biden told reporters that he trusts the assessment of US officials, who thus far have concurred with the Israeli government’s theory of the case.
“I don’t know all the details, but I do know the people at the Defense Department who I respect and the intelligence community that I respect, say it is highly improbable that Israel did that,” he said.
The president’s comments, made while returning to Washington from a brief one-day visit to Israel, came as the White House announced that he will deliver a major address on the 10-day-old war between Israel and Hamas and Russia’s nearly two-year-old war against Ukraine from the Oval Office on Thursday evening.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement late Wednesday that Mr Biden would address the nation at 8pm ET to “discuss our response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine”.
Mr Biden’s formal address to the nation will come less than a day after returning to the US from Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet just 10 days after terror attacks by Hamas left more than 1,000 Israelis dead and scores taken captive by the militant group.
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