Biden meets Netanyahu a day after nearly 500 killed in Gaza hospital strike

Biden meets Netanyahu a day after nearly 500 killed in Gaza hospital strike
Biden said that the "other team", in reference to Palestinian militant groups, carried out the devastating strike on Gaza's Al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday "based on what he's seen," in a state visit to Israel.
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Biden appeared to back Israeli claims that Palestinian militant groups were responsible for a deadly strike on a Gaza hospital on Tuesday [Getty]

US President Joe Biden visited Israel on Wednesday a day after a devastating strike on a Gaza hospital killed hundreds in Gaza, prompting global outrage.

Palestinians and Arab countries have blamed Israel, which has relentlessly rained bombs on Gaza since 7 October, killing at least 3,478 Palestinians as of Wednesday, including medics, journalists, children and women.

"I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday," Biden said at a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the morning after the blast that killed nearly 500 Palestinians, according to health authorities in Gaza.

"And, based on what I've seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you," said the US president.

"But there's a lot of people out there not sure, so we have to overcome a lot of things," Biden added after the first protests erupted against Israel and the United States, with more expected across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Biden has expressed "iron-clad" US support for top regional ally Israel and its military campaign, which has been carried out in retaliation to a cross-border attack by Hamas over a week ago.

But the horror of the hospital deaths threatened to derail his high-stakes regional visit, with Jordan cancelling a summit between King Abdullah II, Biden, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Arab countries have almost universally blamed Israel for the hospital attack, either directly or through state media - including Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which are among the region's few countries Israel has diplomatic relations with.

'Bloodshed must stop'

In besieged Gaza, the hospital blast brought new horrors after 12 days of sustained bombardment that Israel claims targets Hamas, and which has destroyed many residential buildings and key infrastructure.

More than a million people have been displaced ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

Overnight, after the explosion, scores of bodies cloaked in blood-stained sheets and white plastic lined the floors at the nearby Al-Shifa hospital, where stunned and bereaved relatives tried to identify loved ones.

"Hospitals are not a target," said Ghassan Abu Sittah of the charity Doctors Without Borders, who was inside the building when it was hit.

"This bloodshed must stop. Enough is enough."

As the sun rose at the blast site, rubble, charred cars and victims' belongings were scattered around the Christian-run hospital.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said hundreds died including women, children, staff and "internally displaced people seeking safe shelter".

Neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian accounts could be independently corroborated.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari told a press conference that the hospital "was hit" by a rocket that misfired after it was launched by Islamic Jihad.

"Our radar system tracked missiles fired by terrorists in Gaza at the time of the explosion and the trajectory analysis of the rockets shows the rockets were fired in close proximity to the hospital."

Hamas responded that Israel's "outrageous lies do not deceive anyone".

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'Day of rage'

Entire Gaza neighbourhoods have been razed and survivors are left with dwindling supplies of food, water and fuel, unable to flee the 40-kilometre (25-mile) long strip blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

"The situation in Gaza is spiralling out of control," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"We need violence on all sides to stop."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" and warned Israel against "the collective punishment of the Palestinian people".

Biden said he was encouraging Netanyahu to ensure "life-saving capacity to help the Palestinians who are innocent and caught in the middle of this". The majority of those killed in Gaza, however, are civilians, with over half being women and children.

Across the region, the response to the hospital strike was quick and furious as Jordanian protesters tried to storm the Israeli embassy and Lebanese protesters clashed with security forces outside the US embassy.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the cancelled four-way summit in Amman would be held "when the decision to stop the war and put an end to these massacres has been taken".

In Lebanon, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement vowed a "day of rage" on Wednesday.

Inside Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians who hold US and other foreign passports have desperately hoped to escape through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only way in and out of Gaza not controlled by Israel.

The Rafah crossing has remained closed during the war as Israel has struck the Palestinian side, preventing the delivery of aid piled up in long convoys of trucks waiting in Egypt.

Sisi, in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, denied Egypt was keeping the border closed and warned against any potential Israeli plan to permanently drive Palestinians out of Gaza.

Such a "forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt" would set a precedent for also driving West Bank Palestinians into Jordan, Sisi said.

The effect, the Egyptian president warned, would be "eradicating the Palestinian cause" and making a future Palestinian state "impossible."