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Dhaka Tribune

Biden lands in Israel in bid to prevent Gaza conflict

  • US President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel for a complex diplomatic mission
  • Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast, which it said had killed as many as 500 people
Update : 18 Oct 2023, 06:06 PM

US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday pledging solidarity in its war against Hamas and backing its account that a blast that killed huge numbers of Palestinians at a Gaza hospital had been caused by fighters.

The fireball that engulfed the Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital delivered some of the most harrowing images yet from a 12-day war and wrecked White House plans for Biden's emergency diplomatic mission to the Middle East, with Arab leaders calling off their planned summit with the US president.

Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast, which it said had killed as many as 500 people. Israel said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters group, which denied blame.

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said: "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."

"But there's a lot of people out there not sure, so we’ve got a lot, we’ve got to overcome a lot of things," Biden added.

"The world is looking. Israel has a value set like the US does, and other democracies, and they are looking to see what we are going to do."

Biden's trip to the Middle East was supposed to calm the region, even as he demonstrated US support for its ally Israel.

But after the hospital blast, Jordan canceled the second half of Biden's itinerary: a planned summit in Amman with the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu thanked Biden for his "unequivocal support". President Isaac Herzog's office said the head of state had told Biden: "God bless you for protecting the nation of Israel."

‘Help us, help us!’

The scenes of destruction from the hospital were horrific even by the standards of the past 12 days, which have confronted the world with relentless images, first of Israelis slaughtered in their homes and then of Palestinian families buried under rubble from Israel's retaliatory strikes.

Rescue workers scoured blood-stained debris for survivors. A Gaza civil defense chief gave a death toll of 300, while health ministry sources put it at 500, though Israel disputed those figures. Palestinian ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said rescuers were still recovering bodies.

"People came running into the surgery department screaming, 'Help us, help us, there are people killed and wounded inside the hospital!'" said Dr Fadel Naim, Head of the hospital's Orthopedic Surgery Department.

"The hospital was full of dead and wounded, dismembered bodies, and dead," he told Reuters. "We tried to save whoever can be saved but the number was too big for the hospital team to be able to save... We saw them alive but we couldn't help them and they were martyred."

Israel later released drone footage of the scene of the hospital explosion, which it said showed it was not responsible because there was no impact crater from any missile or bomb.

The Israeli military published what it said was an audio recording of "communication between terrorists talking about rockets misfiring."

Palestinians were convinced the explosion was an Israeli attack, with no warning for civilians to leave a hospital that was being used as a shelter by thousands of Gazans already made homeless by Israeli bombing.

"This place created a safe haven for women and children, those who escaped the Israeli bombing," another doctor at the hospital, Ibrahim Al-Naqa, told Reuters. "We don't know what the shell is called but we saw the results of it when it targeted children and ripped their bodies into pieces."

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