President Joe Biden met with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders less than two weeks after Hamas launched its attack in Israel and reconfirmed American support for Israel.
President Biden's trip to the Middle East will be shorter than originally planned following a bombing at a hospital in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported 471 people were killed and 342 others were wounded. The group blamed Israeli airstrikes for the bombing.
An Israeli military spokesman said it was a misfired rocket by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad that landed on the hospital. President Biden said the bombing appeared to not come from Israel.
“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion of the hospital in Gaza yesterday, and based on what I've seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you," President Biden said from Tel Aviv, according to a White House pool report.
When asked why he agreed with Israeli leaders that the bombing was not the result of an Israeli airstrike, President Biden said, "The data I was shown by my defense department."
President Biden's visit comes after 1,400 people in Israel were killed by Hamas militants, including 30 Americans. Prior to Tuesday's hospital bombing, Hamas leaders said 2,800 have died, and over 10,000 have been wounded by Israeli air missiles.
The U.S. has promised to back the Israel Defense Forces. The U.S. has two carrier strike groups, the USS Gerald Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, en route. There are also 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe on standby to assist in non-combat roles.
"The state of Israel was born to be a safe place for the Jewish people of the world," President Biden said. "That's why it was born. If Israel didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. While it may not feel that way today, Israel must again be a safe place for the Jewish people. And I promise you we're gonna do everything in our power to make sure there will be."
The U.S. considers Israel its strongest Middle East ally, but the White House has expressed concerns that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip could cause a humanitarian crisis. During his visit Wednesday, President Biden pledged to provide $100 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians affected by the conflict.
"We all believe strongly that the humanitarian assistance needs to flow as soon as possible," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters en route to Tel Aviv. "I mean, there are people in real need in Gaza. And we want to make sure that they get the food, water, medicine, electrical power that they desperately need. Because, I mean, it is a desperate need."
Prior to Tuesday's hospital bombing, President Biden was slated to follow his trip to Israel with a visit to Jordan to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt.
"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 White House said in a statement late Tuesday.
Kirby said he understood why some leaders wanted to cancel the meeting following the hospital bombing.
"Of course, he would always prefer face-to-face diplomacy," said. "That’s the president’s stock-in-trade. But he also understands, in the wake of this explosion at the hospital, that it's not the appropriate thing to do for — certainly for the leaders that are there."
President Biden also met with families who either had a relative killed by Hamas or have a loved one who is unaccounted for.
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