US says Gaza hospital bombing was not Israel


TEL AVIV, Israel − President Joe Biden secured an agreement with Israel on Wednesday to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza while supporting the Israelis’ contention that they were not behind the explosion that killed hundreds at a Gaza City hospital.

The humanitarian assistance, along with $100 million in new U.S. funding for Gaza and the West Bank announced by Biden, could provide a critical lifeline to Palestinians in the besieged territory where water, food, fuel and medicine are in desperate need.

Biden and his administration said a U.S. assessment concluded Israel did not cause Tuesday’s blast at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. “Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamas said the explosion killed close to 500 and blamed an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military denied it and released video, audio and other information pointing to a missile misfire by Islamic Jihad, a militant group that sometimes cooperates with Hamas and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.

The hospital carnage sparked rage throughout the region, and Jordan canceled a summit scheduled Wednesday in Amman, where Biden was to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


∎ Mohammed Abu Selmia − the general director of Shifa Hospital where all the wounded and dead were transferred following the explosion − said early Wednesday he believed the death toll was close to 250, with hundreds more wounded, The Associated Press reported.

∎ About three-quarters of voters believe supporting Israel is in the U.S.’s national interest, but 85% are at least somewhat concerned the current conflict may escalate into a wider war in the Middle East, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

∎ Representatives from intelligence agencies have expressed concerns over potential fallout in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. At the “Five Eyes” intelligence summit on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency is working with local law enforcement to address domestic threats of violence in Jewish and Muslim communities.

∎ More than 3,000 people have been killed and more than 12,500 have been injured in Gaza, according to its health ministry. In Israel, at least 1,400 people have been killed and almost 4,000 have been wounded.

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Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested by Capitol Police during a rally organized by two American Jewish left-wing, anti-Zionist groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, on Wednesday. Demonstrators gathered inside the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building, demanding a ceasefire and an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

Capitol Police told news outlets that about 300 people were arrested. But Jewish Voice for Peace disputed that claim and said about 500 protesters were arrested.

According to Capitol Police, most protesters were arrested for demonstrating inside a congressional building and three were charged with assault on a police officer.

“We warned the protestors to stop demonstrating and when they did not comply we began arresting them,” Capitol Police said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The New York Times reported that about 400 had rallied inside the building and were led by about 25 rabbis who read testimonials from Palestinians in Gaza and recited prayers. Outside the building, hundreds more marched and chanted “cease-fire now,” and sang in Hebrew and English.

The incident restricted public access to the Capitol on Wednesday.

A State Department official announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing his disagreement with Biden’s approach to the war and the United States’ “continued lethal assistance to Israel.” The Huffington Post first reported the official’ resignation earlier on Wednesday.

Josh Paul had worked for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for over a decade and oversaw arms transfers and provisions to foreign powers, according to his statement and his LinkedIn profile.

“In my 11 years I have made more moral compromises than I can recall, each heavily, but each with my promise to myself in mind, and intact,” Paul wrote in a LinkedIn post. “I am leaving today because I believe that in our current course with regards to the continued — indeed, expanded and expedited — provision of lethal arms to Israel — I have reached the end of that bargain.”

The United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution Wednesday that called for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza. The resolution, proposed by Brazil, would have condemned all violence against civilians in the war and pushed for humanitarian aid in the region.

Twelve of the 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution but the United States voted against it while Russia and the United Kingdom abstained. The resolution had widespread support and the United States’ decision had sparked criticism.

But U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield noted that Biden was in the region to engage in diplomacy and find out more information. She said the council needed to allow diplomatic efforts to unfold and criticized the resolution for failing to mention Israel’s right to self-defense.

On the return from Israel aboard Air Force One, Biden told reporters he spoke with El-Sisi on Wednesday and the Egyptian leader agreed to allow up to 20 trucks of humanitarian aid to travel through the Rafah gate, the crossing connecting his nation to Gaza.

“If Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through … then it’s going to end, because we’re not going to be sending in humanitarian aid to Hamas,” Biden said. “The bottom line is that El-Sisi deserves some real credit because he was very accommodating.”

Biden said Ambassador David Satterfield, whom the president appointed this week as the special envoy for humanitarian issues in the Middle East, will coordinate the operation.

Aid may not reach Gaza until Friday, Biden said. The roads must be patched first, and that work will begin tomorrow. Biden said the U.S. is working to get as many waiting trucks approved to enter Gaza as possible but not all of them will be let in. 

Biden had initially planned to meet with El-Sisi, King Abdullah II and Abbas in Jordan after stopping in Israel, but that summit was called off after the hospital blast in Gaza City. Instead, Biden said he and El-Sisi had a long phone conversation.

“I came to get something done, I got it done,” Biden said, adding that the Defense Department told him it was “highly improbable” Israel was involved in the hospital explosion.

The White House said Biden will deliver a televised address from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday regarding Hamas’ attack on Israel and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

− Francesca Chambers

Biden promised Wednesday that the U.S. will do everything possible to make Israel safe again for the Jewish people while also announcing the new aid for Palestinians and cautioning Israelis to not be consumed by rage.

“Israel will be a safe, secure, Jewish and Democratic state today, tomorrow and forever,” Biden said in Tel Aviv after a series of meetings with Israeli leaders and survivors of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas.

Biden said he will be asking Congress for an “unprecedented” package of support for Israel.

“Israel must again be a safe place for the Jewish people,” he said, “and I promise you, we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that it will be.”

Biden also warned Israel to learn from the U.S., which sought justice after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but also made mistakes. He encouraged Israel to ask hard questions, be clear about its objectives and whether a course of action would achieve those goals.

“You are a Jewish state but you’re also a democracy … you live by the rule of law,” Biden said. “If you give that up, then the terrorists win. And we can never let them win.”

− Maureen Groppe

Netanyahu assured Biden that Israel would try to limit civilian casualties in its war with Hamas.

“As we proceed in this war, Israel will do everything it can to keep civilians out of harm’s way,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with Biden and Israel’s war cabinet.

His office said in a statement later that, at Biden’s request, Israel will allow aid to flow to Gaza.

“Israel will not prevent humanitarian assistance from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population located in the southern Gaza Strip or which is evacuating to there, and as long as these supplies do not reach Hamas,” the statement said. “Any supplies that reach Hamas will be prevented.”

Biden met with Israel’s war cabinet shortly after arriving in Tel Aviv in a hastily arranged trip designed to show solidary with the U.S.’s oldest ally in the Middle East.

– Michael Collins

U.S. officials said Wednesday their early assessment indicates Israel was not behind the Gaza hospital blast that killed hundreds of civilians.

“While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday,” White National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Hamas has blamed Israel for the Tuesday explosion, while Israel said the blast was from a rocket misfired by Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

Biden said he was “outraged and saddened” by the loss of life in Gaza City. “Based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza,” he said in a speech.

– Francesca Chambers and Tom Vanden Brook

More than 100 demonstrators protesting the Israel-Hamas war were arrested Wednesday at the Capitol.

Hundreds of the protesters, organized by the left-wing advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace, descended on the Capitol and staged a sit-in at the Cannon House Office building, demanding an immediate ceasefire.Capitol police began arresting the protesters and escorting them out of the building.While the office buildings on Capitol Hill are accessible to the public, “Demonstrations are not allowed inside Congressional buildings,” U.S. Capitol Police tweeted.– Ken Tran

Senators convened for a classified meeting Wednesday afternoon to hear from top Biden administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. C.Q. Brown and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the meeting that Biden officials reiterated Israel was not to blame for the explosion at a Gaza hospital. He also referenced the Senate passing an Israeli aid package, telling reporters he asked Austin when he needs the funding. 

“His answer was crystal clear – yesterday,” Schumer said. “The Senate will not wait. We must act quickly. We hope nobody tries to slow this desperately needed aid down.”

Senators leaving the meeting said they expect to see a supplemental aid package by the end of the week.

− Rachel Looker

Israel is seeking $10 billion in U.S. aid after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks killed more than 1,400 in Israeli territory, according to a U.S. official familiar with the request.

About 70% of Israel’s request is expected to be military equipment, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the request. Israel has asked the Pentagon for interceptors for its Iron Dome missile-defense system, precision-guided weapons and artillery shells. The weaponry is expected to be needed for its planned invasion of Gaza.

The proposed aid package would be part of a supplemental request the administration is expected to seek from Congress. Bloomberg and the Washington Post have reported the White House is also likely to seek additional aid for Ukraine and other contingencies totaling $100 billion.

Military aid to Israel totaled $3.8 billion in fiscal year 2023, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Tom Vanden Brook

The U.S exercised its veto power on the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to keep a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the war between Israel and Hamas from moving forward. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield pushed the council to let Biden’s diplomacy in the region run its course and argued that Israel has a right to self-defense.

“Yes, resolutions are important. And yes, this council must speak out,” she said. “But the actions we take must be informed by the facts on the ground and support direct diplomacy efforts that can save lives.”

Russia and Britain abstained from voting on the resolution, which urged a pause to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza. The other 12 nations on the council supported the measure, and the U.S. cast the only vote against it.

− Francesca Chambers

Massive protests across the Middle East broke out overnight Tuesday and continued into Wednesday following the deadly blast at a Gaza City hospital.

Thousands of angry protesters took to the streets in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries in condemnation of Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza. Large demonstrations were held in front of the missions of Israel and its allies, including the United States, France and Britain.

In Egypt, thousands of students rallied at universities. Protesters in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities chanted “Death to Israel” and “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Al-Aqsa,” referring to a contested Jerusalem holy site, The Associated Press reported. A smaller protest was held near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday.

In Beirut, videos of protests show the army barricading themselves between demonstrators and the U.S. Embassy. On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory for Lebanon, citing “rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah or other armed militant factions.”

Meanwhile, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, protesters clashed with Palestinian security forces and called for the overthrow of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In a hotel ballroom in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden consoled Israelis impacted by Hamas’ attack.

“God love ya,” an emotional Biden told one survivor.

He hugged a woman who saved people on her kibbutz during the Oct. 7 attack.

Before the meeting was closed to reporters, Biden expressed his solidarity with Israel and quoted Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ line that “too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.”

“None of your hearts have turned to stone yet,” he said.

Those Biden met with included Mohammad Darawshe, a director of an organization that works to bridge the gap between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. His cousin, an Arab-Israeli paramedic, died while saving lives at the Nova Festival on Oct. 7, according to the White House.

Maureen Groppe

The Biden administration said it will sanction Iran over its ballistic missile program and support for terrorism a part of an effort to discourage Iran from exacerbating the instability in the Middle East.

Iran provides military assistance to Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon. The U.S. has designated both groups terrorist organizations. The sanctions are meant to keep Iran from making use of U.S. and international financial systems and accessing equipment and capabilities that will allow Iran to build and sell weapons.

The actions by the U.S. and a coalition of more than 45 nations were described to reporters by two senior administration officials and are intended to replace United Nations sanctions expiring this week. The Biden administration also hopes to hobble Iran’s ability to provide Russia with drones that it says Vladimir Putin’s government is using to target civilians and critical infrastructure in Ukraine.

– Francesca Chambers

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday evening to “express profound condolences for the civilian lives lost” in the hospital explosion, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“The Secretary emphasized that the United States unequivocally condemns all terrorism and stressed the United States’ firm commitment to upholding the law of war, to include important protections for civilians,” Miller said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which owns and operates the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City where hundreds of people were killed in an explosion, issued a condemnation and called for a day of mourning Wednesday.

Tuesday’s blast sparked outrage from Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who canceled the Arab summit with Biden. The 22 Arab countries at the United Nations also declared days of national mourning or decried the explosion, demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

The devastating explosion and fire at the hospital came amid a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in the Holy Land, called for by church leaders, including Pope Francis, and Christian denominations. The 80-bed hospital and its compound had become a refuge for hundreds of people, and was crowded with victims of Israeli airstrikes and their families.

“The devastation witnessed, coupled with the sacrilegious targeting of the church, strikes at the very core of human decency. We assert unequivocally that this is deserving international condemnation and retribution,” the diocese said in a statement. “An urgent appeal resonates for the international community to fulfill its duty in protecting civilians and ensuring that such inhumane horrific acts are not replicated.”

The Israel Defense Forces, also known as the IDF, is the national military of Israel. It has three branches: the army, navy and air force. It’s a conscripted military service, meaning Israel mandates IDF service for Jewish, Druze and Circassian citizens over the age of 18, with some exceptions.

It was established in 1948, two weeks after Israel became an independent country.

The IDF had 169,500 active troops and was the 28th largest military in the world by active personnel, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance 2023. There are also 465,000 reserve personnel who can supplement active military forces if deemed necessary.

Hamas – an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, or the Islamic resistance movement – was founded in 1987 by activists connected to the Muslim Brotherhood during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997, and several other nations also consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

In 2006, Hamas won parliamentary elections, and in 2007 the group violently seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, which was controlled by the rival Fatah movement that still governs the West Bank. There have been no elections since. The group calls for establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state that would replace the current state of Israel and believes in the use of violence to carry out the destruction of Israel.

Hamas receives financial, material and logistical support from Iran. So far, however, the U.S. and other nations have said there is no evidence that Iran was directly involved in Hamas’ attack.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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