President Joe Biden has visited Israel on an urgent mission to keep the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a broader regional conflict. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that limited humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza from Egypt following a request from Biden.
The president’s visit came after hundreds of people were reported killed in an explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital. There were conflicting claims of who was responsible for the hospital blast. Officials in Gaza quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike. Israel denied it was involved and released a flurry of video, audio and other information that it said showed the blast was due to a missile misfire by Islamic Jihad, another militant group operating in Gaza. The Islamic Jihad dismissed that claim.
The Associated Press has not independently verified any of the claims or evidence released by the parties.
The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday that 3,478 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,000 injured in the past 11 days.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.
1. Biden says the U.S. will provide $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians affected by conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.
2. Egypt and other Arab countries typically don’t want to take in Palestinian refugees.
3. Relatives of people taken hostage by Hamas militants tell their stories as they hope for their safe return.
4. The U.S. has vetoed a proposed U.N. resolution to condemn violence against civilians in the Israel-Hamas war.
5. Rage at the Gaza hospital blast carnage spread throughout the Middle East.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Residents and doctors in this southern Gaza town said an airstrike slammed into a home, killing seven small children.
The news spread quickly on social media, as grisly images of dead and bloodied toddlers lined up side by side on a hospital stretcher stirred outrage in Gaza and the West Bank.
Bandaged and caked in dust, the bodies were brought to the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younis along with three other dead members of the Bakri family. Photographers swarmed the operation room as women covered their eyes and doctors wept.
“This is a massacre,” hospital director Dr. Yousef Al-Akkad said, his voice choking with emotion. “Let the world see, these are just children.”
Local medics also confirmed that the children were killed in a strike and said the Bakri family was just one of many such cases Wednesday.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
CAIRO — Egyptian soccer star Mohamed Salah, arguably the most celebrated Arab footballer, called on world leaders to “come together to prevent further slaughter of all innocent souls” and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza.
“There has been too much violence and too much heartbreak and brutality,” the Liverpool striker said in a video that lasted a little under a minute. “The escalations in the recent weeks is unbearable to witness. All lives are sacred and must be protected. The massacres need to stop. Families are being torn apart.”
Aid to Gaza “must be allowed immediately,” he added. “The people there are in terrible conditions.”
They were Salah’s first comments on the Israel-Hamas war, after he was criticized by some Arab fans for his silence.
Officials said Wednesday that some aid will begin flowing into Gaza in the coming days.
WASHINGTON — Senators who attended a classified briefing with top defense, intelligence and other administration officials said they were briefed that Israel was not responsible for the hospital blast.
“The intelligence community assesses that Israel is not to blame for the explosion of the hospital in Gaza,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said as he left. “They believe it was an errant rocket from terrorists in Gaza.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the intelligence is “definitive” that it was not an Israeli operation.
In a joint statement earlier in the day, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the panel, said they had reviewed intelligence and “feel confident that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike.”
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that the deadly destruction of a hospital has heaped further pressure on Gaza’s crumbling health system, depriving the territory of a facility that cared for 45,000 patients every year.
Speaking in a video briefing from Qatar, Griffiths also said the Al Ahli hospital was previously struck on Oct. 14.
He also said the death toll in the 11 days since Hamas’ surprise attack inside Israel has already exceeded what was seen during seven weeks of Israeli-Hamas hostilities in 2014.
Meanwhile the U.N. Mideast envoy warned that the risk of the conflict expanding is “very real and extremely dangerous.”
Tor Wennesland told the council that recent events “have served to reignite grievances and re-animate alliances across the region.”
Earlier in the day at the U.N., the United States vetoed a resolution that would have condemned violence against civilians in the Israel-Hamas war and pushed for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said President Joe Biden was in the region engaging in diplomacy and “We need to let that diplomacy play out.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is flying to Israel and nearby countries as part of diplomatic efforts to stop the crisis triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from worsening.
Sunak’s office says he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog on Thursday. He will condemn Hamas’ “horrific act of terror” and express condolences for the “terrible loss of life” in both Israel and Gaza.
He’ll also visit “a number of other regional capitals,” Downing Street said, without providing details.
The British leader’s trip follows a visit to Israel on Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden.
Sunak said in a statement that Tuesday’s explosion at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza “should be a watershed moment for leaders in the region and across the world to come together to avoid further dangerous escalation of conflict.”
U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is also on a visit to the region that begins with talks in Egypt on Thursday. He is also due to visit Qatar and Turkey.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday said Egypt’s president has agreed to open a border crossing into Gaza to allow in 20 trucks with humanitarian aid.
Biden said he spoke with Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi after his visit to Israel, where leaders there agreed to allow the aid in. Biden was speaking to reporters on Air Force One during a refueling stop in Germany on his way back to the U.S. from Tel Aviv.
Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip, stopping all entry of food, water, medicine and fuel to its 2.3 million people following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
White House officials said the aid would flow in the coming days. Biden said if Hamas confiscates the aid, “it will end.”
Earlier in the day, the United States promised $100 million in humanitarian assistance to help Palestinian people who have been displaced or otherwise affected by conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.
JERUSALEM — Rights groups in the occupied West Bank say Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of Palestinians protesting the deadly explosion at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza.
The protests late Tuesday devolved into skirmishes with Palestinian security forces, who fired tear gas, stun grenades and live fire to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators, wounding several.
Lawyers for Justice, a legal aid group, said Wednesday that some 50 protesters were arrested overnight by Palestinian security forces in Ramallah.
The Palestinian Red Crescent meanwhile reported that Israeli soldiers using live rounds and rubber bullets shot and wounded 10 Palestinian protesters in the southern city of Hebron and 21 people in the northern city of Nablus. A 24-year-old Palestinian man was killed, according to the organization.
Large protests erupted in Tunisia and Morocco, with demonstrators outraged by the blast at the hospital in Gaza.
Protesters gathered outside the Parliament in Rabat chanting “Down with America” and demanding that Morocco reverse its 2020 decision to normalize relations and deepen security ties with Israel.
In Tunis, protesters gathered outside the U.S. and French Embassies to condemn those nations’ support of Israel and demand that their ambassadors be removed from Tunisia.
The demonstrations were among the largest since the Arab Spring more than a decade ago, observers said.
Tunisian student Ezer Imeny said the war shows that rulers worldwide, including Arab ones, lack moral authority.
“Palestine, we are with you to the death,” Imeny said. “An eye for an eye.”
There was also a march by an estimated 10,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Athens, Greece, that was quelled by riot police who fired tear gas. Earlier in the day about 100 people took part in a pro-Israeli gathering.
Demonstrators in Amman, Jordan; the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh in south Lebanon; and Tokyo directed some of their criticism at the U.S. and Biden for their support of Israel.
TEL AVIV, Israel — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul arrived in Israel to show support for the country.
The Democrat was met at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv by Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog.
After a security briefing, Hochul met with families and was scheduled to head to a food pantry to help pack and drop off boxes for people displaced by the conflict. Hochul was expected to stay in Jerusalem overnight.
She said her trip is meant as a gesture of solidarity and support. New York is home to the largest Jewish population of any U.S. city, according to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University.
“There is a deep, direct connection between New York state and Israel that has always been there, a bond steeled over decades,” Hochul said.
BEIRUT — Hamas is denying Israel’s claims that another militant group was responsible for the massive explosion at a Gaza City hospital that killed hundreds of people.
In a statement Wednesday, Hamas said that in the days before Tuesday’s blast at al-Ahli Hospital, Israeli authorities sent threats to several Gaza Strip hospitals and told each to evacuate or they would “be responsible for what happens.”
Hamas said Israeli forces have targeted several emergency departments and ambulances since the violence began, adding that Israeli military officials contacted 21 hospitals including Al-Ahli, demanding that they evacuate “immediately because they are located in area of operations for the Israeli” army.
JERUSALEM — The families of hostages held in Gaza have harshly criticized the Israeli government’s decision to allow limited humanitarian aid into Gaza.
A statement by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum said the move only increased their suffering.
“Children, infants, women, soldiers, men, and elderly, some with serious illnesses, wounded and shot, are held underground like animals and without human conditions, and the Israeli government pampers the murderers and kidnappers with baklavas and medicines,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said earlier Wednesday that Israel would allow deliveries of food, water and medicine to Gaza as long as the supplies do not reach Hamas.
Hamas says militants are holding 250 hostages.
WASHINGTON — An intelligence assessment shows Israel was “not responsible” for the explosion at a Gaza hospital, but information is still being collected, the White House said Wednesday.
The assessment is “based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a social media post.
The announcement followed President Joe Biden’s comment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.”
Biden said there were “a lot of people out there” who weren’t sure what caused the blast, which sparked protests throughout the Middle East. He later said he made the assertion based off “data from my Defense Department.”