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Biden Arrives in Israel, Cancels Jordan Visit After Gaza Hospital Blast


An injured person is assisted at Shifa Hospital after an explosion hit the nearby Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, 2023.
An injured person is assisted at Shifa Hospital after an explosion hit the nearby Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, 2023.

Latest developments

  • U.S President Joe Biden arrives in Israel for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Hundreds killed when rocket hits Gaza City’s Al-Ahli Arab Hospital. Israel blames explosion on Palestinian militants; Palestinian Islamic jihad spokesman denies the group is responsible
  • White House said planned meeting with Arab leaders in Jordan has been canceled.
  • Israeli leader warns Iran and Hezbollah, 'Don't test us in the north.'
  • More than 1,400 Israelis, 3,000 Palestinians have been killed

A massive explosion rocked a Gaza hospital Tuesday night, possibly killing several hundred people, and U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Israel Wednesday to show his support for the longtime U.S. ally.

A key meeting in Jordan with Arab leaders was canceled following the blast.

Hamas militants blamed Israel for the explosion on Gaza City's Ahli Arab Hospital, calling it "a crime of genocide that once again reveals the ugly face of this criminal enemy and its fascist and terrorist government."

It said in a statement that there were "hundreds of casualties, most of them displaced families, patients, children and women." Palestinian authorities said about 500 people had been killed.

A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into the emergency room of the al-Shifa hospital, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, 2023.
A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into the emergency room of the al-Shifa hospital, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, 2023.

The Israel Defense Forces denied being at fault, saying an errant rocket fired by the paramilitary Palestinian Islamic Jihad struck the hospital. The militant group denied it was responsible.

After Tel Aviv, Biden was scheduled to continue to Amman, Jordan, but after the Gaza hospital attack, the trip was canceled as leaders of countries neighboring Israel – King Abdullah of Jordan and President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi of Egypt – decided against holding the summit with Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Tuesday, “Our Jordanian brothers said we cannot have a summit with these conditions. ... Only [one] thing would make sense — if he’d [Biden] make a cease-fire and say, ‘I’m coming to force implementation of it.’”

The White House released a statement at roughly the time of Biden’s departure.

“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 statement said.

Biden Heads to Israel as Hundreds Die in Gaza Hospital Blast
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“The President 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,” it continued.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Tel Aviv. He was asked if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a call with Biden, had denied that Israel was responsible for the hospital blast.

“We certainly recognize that they [Israel] feel very strongly that this was not caused by them,” Kirby responded.

Kirby also declined to characterize whether Israel has violated the laws of war by its continued siege of Gaza.

Earlier Tuesday, Charles Michel, European Council president, said that what Israel has done in cutting access to basic services such as water, food and electricity “is not in line with the international law."

Abbas returned to Ramallah, where thousands of Palestinians protested the hospital attack. Protests also ignited Tuesday in cities across the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Iran and Turkey.

Israeli Volunteers Look for Civilians, Including Babies and the Elderly, Taken Hostage by Hamas
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October 7 attack

Hamas, which launched the October 7 terror attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, has long refused to recognize the Jewish state. Israel imposed a blockade on the movement of goods and people in and out Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

In response to the October 7 attack, Israel has put Gaza under a total siege and subjected it to an intense bombardment. It has vowed to annihilate Hamas. Some 3,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,500 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council will vote on a Brazilian-drafted resolution that calls for humanitarian pauses in the conflict between Israel and Hamas to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip.

The council is also expected to discuss — at the request of the United Arab Emirates and Russia — the Gaza hospital blast, diplomats said.

The 15-member council had initially been due to vote Monday on the Brazilian draft, but it was postponed 24 hours to allow more time to negotiate. The United States then pushed for a further delay as Biden visits Israel on Wednesday.

In announcing Biden’s trip early Tuesday in Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the president "will hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas."

Blinken said the U.S. and Israel agreed to develop a plan "that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza — and them alone."

Israel in recent days has ordered Palestinian civilians living in the northern half of Gaza to head to the southern reaches of the territory along the Mediterranean Sea. About 600,000 people in cars and on foot have heeded the Israeli demand.

But Israeli forces have continued to launch airstrikes into southern Gaza, including on Tuesday morning, along with attacks on Hamas targets in the north.

The humanitarian crisis has grown increasingly dire in Gaza. Israel has blocked basic necessities from reaching the territory. There is limited electricity and diminishing supplies of food and water, while hospitals say they are hard-pressed to treat the wounded.

Margaret Besheer at the United Nations contributed to this article. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.