UPDATED, 4:13 PM with new Biden statement: A horrific strike upon a hospital in Gaza today that has left hundreds dead has derided President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East before Air Force One even took off.
Coming a week and a half after Hamas terrorists swarmed Israeli border towns and military camps killing and kidnapping up to 1400 people, the attack on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City left at least 500 people dead, according to local health authorities.
“I am outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted. Immediately upon hearing this news, I spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and have directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened,” President Biden said in a statement put out by the administration after he had left for Israel today. “The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy,” the president added, careful to not put blame on any one side.
With the fatal toll climbing quickly in the hours following the attack, cable news outlets domestic and international sought to elucidate themselves and viewers on where the rocket came from.
In the fog of war, and as protests and fires broke out at US and Israeli embassies in Awkar, East of Beirut, Lebanon, and Amman, Jordan, responsibility for the onslaught remains unclear. Palestinians are saying the attack was an Israeli airstrike. Military officials out of Tel Aviv are claiming the carnage was from a failed rocket attack on Israel that originated out of Gaza from splinter group Islamic Jihad.
“We do not intentionally target anything civilians,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricusan told the BBC World News Tuesday afternoon of the attack on the Anglican-run hospital. “All of our strikes have an address and that address is Hamas,” he continued, citing evidence that Israel has acquired, but not released.
As Israeli forces sit on the Gaza border waiting to commence a ground invasion and hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents have been told to evacuate, one of the political consequences of the destruction of the hospital has been the halting of a meeting planned for later this week in Amman between Joe Biden and major players in the region.
Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were supposed to sit down with Biden. With dozens of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, President Biden will visit Jerusalem tomorrow and talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As reported on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and others, Abbas first pulled out of the meeting in Amman and traveled back to the West Bank.
As one of Abbas’ closest aides Hussein al-Sheikh revealed on social media:
Within a few hours the gathering itself in Amman was not happening.
As Biden left Washington DC for the region to try to put some of his trip back together, the White House confirmed the meeting was off his calendar, 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 administration said as Air Force One literally was taking off from Andrews Air Force Base. “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.”
The White House added later that after learning about the “reports of the terrible loss of life” at the Gaza hospital, ‘the President spoke by phone with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who is still in the region. The President also spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan and with Prime Minister Netanyahu”
Jordan’s king has come out in the last few minutes and called the hospital strike “an undeniable war crime.” While Biden is in Israel, the UN Security Council has scheduled a Russia and UAE requested emergency meeting for tomorrow to address the Gaza situation.
PREVIOUSLY, OCT 16 PM: Just over a week and a half after Hamas terrorists brutally attacked Israel, Joe Biden is heading to the Jewish state.
In Tel Aviv as a part of his shuttle diplomacy in the region, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the President’s Wednesday visit late tonight. “He’s coming here at a critical moment for Israel, and for the region and for the world,” Blinken said, as the news shot around the world online.
The presidential trip comes as the new national government in Israel has told citizens to leave the territory. In the countdown to that evacuation, hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops are massing on the border with Gaza for a ground invasion widely expected in the next few days.
In fact, many assumed the invasion could start tomorrow – which will obviously not now be the case.
“Israel is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust,” Biden told CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday when rumors of a possible visit to Israel started circulating. “So I think Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas. Hamas is a bunch of cowards. They’re hiding behind the civilians.”
After repeatedly affirming over the past week his and the United State’s support for Israel after the October 7 attack that has seen over 1300 dead, including nearly 30 Americans, and dozens taken hostage, Biden will meet face-to-face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trip. Around 2,300 Palestinians have been killed over the last week and a half after Israeli jets targeted Hamas offices and more in Gaza.
Netanyahu invited an interested Biden when the two spoke on October 14, the White House said over the weekend
After being in Israel, President Biden will travel to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah, Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Soon after Sec. Blinken confirmed Biden’s trip, the White House released a statement of its own: “President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will travel to Israel on Wednesday, October 18, to demonstrate his steadfast support for Israel in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack and to consult on next steps. President Biden will then travel to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with his Majesty King Abdullah, Egyptian President Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.”
Secretary Blinken said Monday that in that visit, Biden will “reaffirm the United States solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security.”
In terms of security, there is multi-billion dollar aid package to Israel anticipated, arms already transported to the nation, and American aircraft carriers and other naval forces off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, a 2,000-strong US Marines rapid response force is moving into position. Biden has warned potential bad actors like Iran and Syria, and indirectly Russia not to get involved in the conflict and certainly not to enlarge it. “Don’t,” the president has declared in a number of speeches, interviews and remarks since October 7.
That word is being backed up by munitions and personnel.
“The full force of US deference is on display here,” said Fox News’ John Roberts live today of the American military presence in the region as the announcement of Biden’s trip was made public. “With the idea that this could turn into a tinderbox very quickly if this ground operation gets underway.” Along with Fox, CNN and MSNBC cut in with breaking news segments on the Biden visit.
With the invite to Israel by Netanyah on Saturday, the Beltway rumor mill went into over drive on Monday about Biden heading to the Jewish state after a long planned trip to Colorado was suddenly postponed this morning by the White House. Similar to his trip to Ukraine in February, the word was Biden was already in the air and traveling in secret.
The rumor was correct, but off by about 36 hours and nothing secret about it now.