Joe Biden’s Middle East summit cancelled after hospital strike, White House says

President had been set to meet with leaders in Jordan after wartime trip to Israel

Graeme Massie,Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 17 October 2023 18:12 EDT

Gaza hospital burns moments after deadly explosion ‘kills at least 500 people’

Joe Biden’s Middle East summit has been cancelled following the deadly strike on a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of Palestinians, the White House has confirmed.

A White House official said Mr Biden would still travel to Israel, but the planned second leg of the trip to Jordan will be postponed for now.

“After consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt,” the official said in a statement.

The official also said Mr Biden had “sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza, and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded”.

“He looks forward to consulting in person with these leaders soon, and agreed to remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days,” the official added.

The US president had been set to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, along with the country’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Sisi, as part of his wartime trip to the region.

Mr Abbas returned to Ramallah in the West Bank in the wake of the airstrike in Gaza that Hamas health officials say has killed as many as 500 people, according to The Associated Press.

The news broke as Mr Biden was en route to Andrews Air Force Base to leave for the region and was confirmed by the White House, which said the president would still travel to Israel.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry claims that the air strike hit the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, which was packed with injured Palestinians and people seeking shelter from Israel’s bombing.

Israel’s IDF “categorically” denied it was behind the hospital attack and instead blamed a “failed rocket launch” by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

“We did not strike that, and the intelligence that we have suggests that it was a failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad, and I want to add, categorically, that we do not intentionally strike any sensitive facilities, any sensitive facilities, and definitely not hospitals,” Lt Col Jonathan Conricus told CNN.

Israel has not yet provided evidence to support its claim that it an Islamic Jihad rocket was responsible.

Photos from the hospital show fire engulfing the hallways with bodies scattered around. If confirmed, the attack would be by far the deadliest Israeli air strike in five wars fought since 2008.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters the strike was “horrific and absolutely unacceptable” while Egypt has denounced it in the “strongest terms”.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in Gaza and more than 12,500 injured since the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel. In Israel, 1,400 people have been killed and almost 4,000 wounded.

While in Israel, Mr Biden is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog and the families of some of the hostages and the missing.

His meeting in Jordan was to discuss continued humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians.

“He will certainly reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinians’ right to dignity and self-determination,” John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman, told reporters on Monday night. “He’ll discuss again the humanitarian needs of all civilians in Gaza.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Israel, announced the trip to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, and said that it was to “reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security.”

It is not the first trip to an active warzone for the president, as he secretly travelled to Ukraine in February, his first to the country since the Russian invasion.

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