Gaza hospital strike upends Biden's high-stakes trip to Israel

Gaza hospital strike upends Biden's high-stakes trip to Israel
Biden's trip was supposed to be a show of US power and an attempt to cool tensions between Israel and the US' Arab allies, but after Israel bombed a Palestinian hospital in Gaza, tensions couldn't be higher.
3 min read
Biden's trip to Israel has effectively been rendered useless after Israel bombed the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza [Getty]

U.S. President Joe Biden's already fraught trip to the Middle East was completely upended after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on a Gaza hospital on Tuesday.

After the strike, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas quickly canceled a planned meeting with Biden, then Jordan's King Abdullah canceled a summit that was supposed to bring Biden together with Egyptian and Palestinian leaders.

Biden, who was supposed to touch down in Tel Aviv and Jordan during the one-day trip, will now only visit Israel, the White House announced as the president was en route to the airport for departure.

"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," a White House official said.

Biden "looks forward to consulting in person" with Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders soon and will "remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days."

Live Story

Gaza authorities say Israel's military was responsible for the hospital bombing; Israeli authorities denied involvement in the strike, which occurred during a massive Israeli bombardment of the enclave and killed about 500.

Biden left Washington Tuesday on what was supposed to be a complex diplomatic mission, aimed at showing support for long-time U.S. ally Israel, calming the region and shoring up humanitarian efforts for Gaza.

It was unclear what he could accomplish in the wake of the hospital strike and the cancellation of the summit in Jordan.

"This sort of murky but horrific event makes diplomacy harder and increases escalation risks," said Richard Gowan, U.N. director at International Crisis Group.

"Biden's visit was meant to underline that the U.S. has a grip on the situation. A tragic incident like this shows how hard it is to keep the war in check.”

Biden was originally expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, then fly to Amman, to meet Jordan's King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Abbas.

Live Story

Failure to meet with Abbas or any Palestinian official, while meeting Israelis on their soil, may undermine Biden's diplomatic message and draw critics at home and abroad. The U.S. is leaning heavily on Egypt to help with humanitarian efforts.

After the hospital blast, Biden's efforts to date in the Israel-Hamas war were criticized by U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress.

Tlaib, a Democrat who had previously been muted in her criticism of Biden's policy, said in a post on social media platform X, "This is what happens when you refuse to facilitate a ceasefire & help de-escalate. Your war and destruction only approach has opened my eyes and many Palestinian Americans and Muslims Americans like me."

More than 70 religious and activist groups, led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights group, called on Biden to demand a ceasefire in Gaza during his visit.