US President Joe Biden has left Israel after an eight hour visit vowing to show the world that the US stands in solidarity with Israelis on a day that was dominated by a deadly missile explosion at a Gaza hospital with both Israel and Hamas claiming the other was responsible.
President Biden offered his assessment that the Israeli military was not to blame. “Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had earlier said “barbaric terrorists” were responsible. Mr. Biden later explained his assessment was based on data from the US Defense Department.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry estimated the death toll at the Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital to be at least 471. The Israeli military later indicated it believed that figure was “inflated.”
Hamas insists an Israeli air strike hit the hospital, but has so far failed to produce any evidence to prove that, unlike the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which gave a detailed explanation of what it believes happened.
Rear Admiral Hagari claimed that Hamas understood the blast was caused by a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket, but launched a “global media campaign” to blame Israel. “They went as far as inflating the numbers of casualties. They understood with absolute certainty that it was a rocket misfired by Islamic Jihad that damaged the hospital,” he asserted.
The IDF spokesman said aerial images and video confirmed there was no direct hit to the hospital itself and there was no damage to nearby buildings. He said the only location damaged was the parking lot outside the hospital, where many Palestinians seeking shelter had believed they would be safe.
He said if the IDF had been responsible for the blast, there would have been a “crater” or some “structural damage”. He showed post-explosion images and diagrams of the hospital, which he claimed showed there was no such damage. “The walls stayed intact,” he said. He also pointed to purported proof of a failed rocket launch because a propellant was still evident.
Rear Admiral Hagari reiterated the blast was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket which “failed to launch” properly and was “misfired,” for the following reasons:
- Confirmation there was no IDF fire from “land, sea or air that hit the hospital”
- Israel’s “radar system” tracked rockets fired from within Gaza – two independent videos show the failure of the rocket launch
- There is intelligence, which shows communication between militant groups about failed rocket launches
The transcript of that conversation – as released by Israel – reveals two people discussing the damage caused.
“They are saying it belongs to PIJ,” one says, to which the other replies: “It’s from us?”
The original speaker goes on: “They shot it from the cemetery behind the hospital.”
“What?!” the other responds, to which they are told: “They shot it coming from the cemetery behind the hospital, and it misfired and fell on them.”
Rear Admiral Hagari insisted: “We have cross-checked this intercept with other intelligence sources to confirm its accuracy.” The IDF claims 450 rockets launched from Gaza have misfired and landed in Gaza since the latest cycle of violence began. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad deny this version of what happened.
The US is supporting the view that Israel did not attack the hospital with a White House spokesperson saying: “While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday.”
President Biden had been scheduled to visit Jordan to meet with Arab leaders after the stop in Israel, but the summit was called off after the hospital explosion. In his arrival remarks he spoke both of the horrors the Israelis had endured and the growing humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
He told Mr. Netanyahu he was “deeply saddened and outraged” by the hospital explosion and stressed that “Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people. It has brought them only suffering.”
It appears the US President has convinced Israel to allow food, water and medicine into Gaza via Egypt.