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Fury erupts as hospital strike kills 200; Biden blames Hamas

TEL AVIV—A strike on a Gaza hospital compound which health officials there said killed at least 200 people has provoked outrage and condemnation from around the world, with protests on the streets of Amman, Tunis, Beirut, and Tehran.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the territory, accused Israel of being behind the explosion. The Israeli army blamed it on a misfired rocket attack by Hamas ally Islamic Jihad, which has described the accusations as “lies”.

But US President Joe Biden, on a solidarity visit to Israel Wednesday, backed the ally’s account that Palestinian militants caused the devastating hospital strike in Gaza, adding Hamas had brought “only suffering.”

“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at 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,” Biden said as he opened a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

AFTER THE TRAGEDY. People gather by the wrapped bodies of victims who died in an overnight strike at the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza on October 18. Later, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (below photo) hugs US President Joe Biden upon the latter’s arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, as the death of at least 200 people at the hospital provoked outrage and condemnation from around the world. AFP

“But there’s a lot of people out there not sure so we have to overcome a lot of things,” Biden said.

Health authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza said the explosion killed between 200 and 300 people and was caused by the latest in a wave of Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli military blamed Palestinian militants, saying an outgoing Islamic Jihad rocket misfired and that it would provide evidence.

“We have to bear in mind that Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people and has brought them only suffering,” Biden said.

He said he was encouraging Netanyahu to ensure “life-saving capacity to help the Palestinians who are innocent and caught in the middle of this.”

In announcing Biden’s visit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israel had agreed to work with the United States on a plan to let aid into Gaza, which has been besieged and bombarded for 12 days and under an Israeli blockade for 16 years

Israel is threatening a ground invasion following the devastating October 7 assault by Hamas militants.

Biden said he was “proud” to visit Israel.

“I want to say to the people of Israel —their courage, their commitment, and their bravery is stunning,” Biden said.

Netanyahu, who has faced domestic criticism after the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, had eagerly invited Biden, who until recently had openly criticized some moves by Israel’s hard-right government.

Netanyahu hailed Biden—who has faced accusations from the rival Republican Party that he is insufficiently pro-Israel—for paying “the first visit of an American president in Israel in a time of war”.

AFP photo

“There’s only one thing better than having a true friend like you standing with Israel and that is having you standing in Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, opening the talks with Biden, called for global unity against Hamas.

“Just as the civilized world united to defeat the Nazis and united to defeat ISIS, the civilized world must unite and defeat Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

“I can assure you, Mr. President, Israel is united to defeat Hamas and we will defeat Hamas and remove this terrible threat.”

Meanwhile, here are some of the major reactions:

UN

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified by the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a strike on a hospital in Gaza”.

Guterres “strongly condemned” the strike but without attributing responsibility.

WHO

The chief of the World Health Organization warned that “The situation in #Gaza is spiraling out of control”.

“We need violence on all sides to stop,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X. “Every second we wait to get medical aid in, we lose lives.”

“We need immediate access to start delivering life-saving supplies.”

African Union

The African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat accused Israel of a “war crime” following the deadly strike.

“There are no words to fully express our condemnation of Israel’s bombing of a #Gaza hospital today, killing hundreds of people,” Faki said on X, formerly Twitter, calling for the international community to act.

Arab League

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said “the West must stop this tragedy immediately”.

“Our Arab mechanisms document war crimes, and their perpetrators will not be able to escape justice,” he warned.

Egypt

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned in the strongest terms “the Israeli bombing” of the Ahli hospital, which led to “the deaths of hundreds of innocent victims” among the Palestinians in Gaza.

He called the “deliberate bombing” a “clear violation of international law”.

EU

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers “there is no excuse for hitting a hospital full of civilians” and that “fact need to be established” and “all those responsible must be held accountable”.

Earlier, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell deplored that “once again, innocent civilians pay the highest price.”

“The responsibility for this crime must be clearly established & the perpetrators held accountable,” he wrote on X.

France

French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing can justify targeting civilians” and that “humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip must be opened without delay”.

Germany

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was “horrified” by the strike and wrote on X that “a thorough investigation of the incident is imperative”.

Hezbollah

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Tuesday called for a “day of rage” to condemn the strike, blaming Israel for what it called a “massacre”.

“Let tomorrow, Wednesday, be a day of rage against the enemy,” Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, said in a statement, calling the explosion a “brutal crime”.

Hundreds of demonstrators scuffled with Lebanese security forces outside the US embassy in the Beirut suburb of Awkar late Tuesday, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the strike, saying “hospitals should be sanctuaries to preserve human life, not scenes of death and destruction”.

Indonesia

Indonesia said the strike “clearly violates international humanitarian law”.

“Indonesia also urges the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to immediately take concrete steps to stop attacks and acts of violence in Gaza,” the foreign ministry said.

Iran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi declared a day of “public mourning” on Wednesday and said the strike at the hospital would turn against Israel and its US ally.

“The flames of the US-Israeli bombs, dropped this evening on the Palestinian victims injured at the… hospital in Gaza, will soon consume the Zionists,” Raisi said, according to the IRNA agency.

Protesters gathered outside the British and French embassies and in Palestine Square in Tehran to voice their anger.

Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani called in a statement for an “immediate and urgent resolution” from the UN Security Council to put an end to the “aggression”.

The government has declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Jordan

Israel bears “responsibility for this grave incident,” a Jordanian foreign ministry statement said, “strongly condemning” the strike.

Amman subsequently announced the cancellation of a summit on brokering peace in the region due to the involvement of US President Joe Biden, who postponed his trip to Amman in response.

Dozens of protesters attempted unsuccessfully to storm the Israeli embassy compound in Amman an AFP journalist said.

MSF

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was “horrified by the recent bombing of the Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City, which was treating patients and hosting displaced Gazans”.

Qatar

Qatar’s foreign ministry called the strike “a brutal massacre” and “a heinous crime against defenceless civilians”.

In a statement, the Gulf state called the explosion at Ahli Arab Hospital a “blatant violation of the provisions of international law” and a “dangerous escalation in the course of the confrontations”.

Russia

The foreign ministry said the strike was a “crime” and “act of dehumanization”.

Saudi Arabia

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia condemned the strike as “a flagrant violation of all international laws and norms”, denouncing Israel’s “continuous attacks against civilians”.

Spain

Spain’s foreign ministry condemned “the terrible massacre… All our solidarity with the innocent civilian victims.”

“Hospitals must never be a target,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares separately wrote on X.

Tunisia

Hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the French embassy in Tunisia on Tuesday, also denouncing the US.

“The French and Americans are allies of Zionists,” demonstrators shouted, according to an AFP journalist.

Protesters demanded the recall of both countries’ ambassadors and shouted: “No American embassy on Tunisian territory.”

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the strike as “the latest example of Israeli attacks devoid of the most basic human values”.

“I invite all humanity to take action to stop this unprecedented brutality in Gaza,” Erdogan wrote on X.

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