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Monday April 15th

Biden visits Israel after hospital blast in Gaza

<p><em>President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday to reaffirm the United States&#x27; solidarity with Israel in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“</em><a href="" target=""><em>Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016</em></a><em>” by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv. March 9, 2016). </em></p>

President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday to reaffirm the United States' solidarity with Israel in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016” by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv. March 9, 2016). 

By Gauri Patel
Staff Writer

President Joe Biden arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 18 to reaffirm the United States' solidarity with Israel in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. The high-stakes visit was meant to bolster Israel’s fight against Hamas and negotiate agreements over providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, according to CNN. 

The visit comes after Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel from the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza, killing over 1,400 Israelis since and taking dozens captive. Israel responded by officially declaring war on Hamas and leading an air bombardment on Gaza, where Hamas militants are supposedly sheltering; these strikes have killed at least 3,785 Palestinians, including hundreds of children. Israeli strikes have forced more than one million people from their homes, according to CNBC. 

Biden’s trip follows an invitation from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, along with careful deliberation with his national security and intelligence advisers after concerns that the security risks were too great, according to Reuters. The decision to make a wartime visit to Israel came after mounting pressure for the U.S. to broker a deal with Egypt to allow humanitarian relief into Gaza before Israel began a ground invasion.  

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Gaza in order to control what can move in and out of the region, and residents are unable to leave the territory without Israeli-approved permits. Additionally, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant imposed a complete siege on Gaza after the Hamas attacks, meaning food, water, fuel and electricity have been cut off for 2.2 million residents. Critical aid including clean water and fuel have not been able to enter the region as Israel closed off its two border crossings with Gaza, according to CNN. 

Upon returning to the U.S., Biden spoke about the new agreements over providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. In his speech, he announced that after speaking with officials from Israel and Egypt, the first shipment of lifesaving aid would be transported from Egypt into Gaza. 

“If Hamas does not divert or steal this shipment — these shipments, we’re going to provide an opening for sustained delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians,” he said, emphasizing that the aid should go to civilians, not Hamas. 

Twenty truckloads of aid would be brought over the Rafah crossing after Egypt agreed to reopen its border with Gaza to allow the trucks to reach Palestinians, according to Reuters. Due to the siege imposed on Gaza by Israel, the only likely route for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is through the Rafah crossing. 

In addition to the agreements over the humanitarian corridor to Gaza, Biden also announced the U.S. would provide $100 million in assistance to Gaza and the West Bank to support displaced Palestinians. He also requested $106 billion in supplemental aid from Congress for Israel and Ukraine on Friday, according to NPR. 

Biden’s visit took place one day after the bombing of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinians, according to NPR. He originally had been scheduled to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmound Abbas in Amman, Jordan after visiting Israel, but the summit was called off after Abbas withdrew in protest of the explosion. 

Hamas accused Israel of conducting the hospital strike, and Palestinian officials also blamed Israel, according to CNN. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) denied the allegations and released intelligence supporting the claim that the explosion was caused by misfired rockets launched by a Palestinian militant group called Islamic Jihad, which exploded mid-air and fell on the hospital grounds, according to NPR. Islamic Jihad denied claims that its rockets were involved in the blast, saying it did not have any activity in or around Gaza City at that time, according to Reuters

An Israeli army spokesperson said an analysis of IDF systems indicated many rockets were fired that were in close proximity to the hospital at the time it was hit. There was also no structural damage to buildings around the hospital, which is inconsistent with a large air-dropped bomb, as it would leave a crater and create a shockwave causing damage. 

Upon hearing about the explosion, Biden directed his national security team to continue gathering information about what occurred. According to The Associated Press, data from the United States Department of Defense showed that the blast was likely not caused by an airstrike by the Israeli military. Biden told Netanyahu during their meeting that the strike appeared to be caused by the “other team, not you,” referring to the Hamas militants. It has not yet been confirmed who was behind the explosion. 

Biden conveyed his sorrow over the tragic loss of life as a result of the hospital explosion and further expressed his commitment to supporting a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. 

“We mourn every innocent life lost. We can’t ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have an opportunity,” he said in his speech. “And as I said in Israel: As hard as it is, we cannot give up on peace.  We cannot give up on a two-state solution. Israel and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity, and peace.”


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