Destruction at Gaza hospital increases risks facing Biden’s trip to Israel and Jordan

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s efforts to calm tensions in the escalating war between Israel and Hamas suffered a bloody setback Tuesday when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, shortly before his expected departure for the Middle East, withdrew from scheduled meetings to protest an explosion. In the Gaza hospital, which led to the deaths of hundreds.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza blamed the explosion on an Israeli airstrike, but the Israeli military said it had no role and blamed a Palestinian rocket that misfired.

Abbas’s cancellation, revealed by a senior Palestinian official, reflects an increasingly volatile situation that will test the limits of US influence in the region as Biden visits Israel and Jordan on Wednesday.

Biden’s decision to place himself in a conflict zone… In the same year he made a surprise visit to Ukraine – He shows his willingness to take personal and political risks when he becomes too invested in another intractable foreign conflict with no clear end and high chances of things spiraling out of control.

The high-stakes presidential trip is a symbol of Biden’s belief that the United States should not retreat from its central role on the world stage and his belief that personal diplomacy can play a decisive role.

“This is how Joe Biden believes politics works and history is made,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was a member.

No water, fuel or food have been delivered to Gaza since the brutal attack on 7 October Hamas has killed more than 1,400 Israelis and ignited the fuse of war. Mediators are struggling to break the deadlock over providing supplies to desperate civilians, aid groups and hospitals.

As the humanitarian crisis grows, so does concern about the escalating conflict extending beyond Gaza’s borders. There were already skirmishes Israel’s northern border with HezbollahIt is an Iranian-backed group based in southern Lebanon.

“There’s a lot that could go wrong on this trip,” Alterman said.

Biden’s trips will be full of security concerns, and visits by other American officials have been disrupted by the launching of missiles into Israel. Additional Israeli air strikes in Gaza could also draw further condemnations at a time when Biden intends to show solidarity with the United States’ closest ally in the region.

The United States has subtly changed its message over the past weekmaintaining full support for Israel while slowly raising a diplomatic voice on the need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, as Biden and his aides heard increasingly dire predictions about the possibility that images of Palestinian suffering would ignite broader protests and unrest across the Middle East.

US officials said it had become clear that the already limited Arab tolerance for Israeli military operations would evaporate completely if conditions in Gaza worsened.

Their analysis predicted that an explicit condemnation of Israel by Arab leaders would not only be a boon for Hamas, but would likely encourage Iran to intensify its anti-Israel activity, raising fears of a potential regional conflagration, according to four officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. About its identity to discuss internal management thinking.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had been going back and forth between the Arab and Israeli leadership ahead of Biden’s visit, spent seven and a half hours at a meeting Monday in Tel Aviv trying to broker some kind of aid deal and came away with a green light to create a plan on how aid would get into Gaza. And distribute it to civilians.

It was a modest accomplishment on the surface, but US officials stressed that it represented a major change in Israel’s position — that Gaza would remain cut off from fuel, electricity, water and other basic supplies.

Biden has a long record of publicly showing support for Israel, while privately expressing concerns to Israelis about their behavior.

“He believes the only way to get into the minds of Israelis is to show deep empathy, but also to be there,” Alterman said.

In the United States, Biden has won rare praise from Republicans for his leadership on Israel, but the prospects for additional aid are uncertain. The administration said it would request more than $2 billion in aid to both Israel and Ukraine. Although House Republicans are still in disarray.

Still, Biden is committed to both Ukraine and Israel.

“We, the United States of America, for God’s sake, are the most powerful country in the history of the world,” he said this week on CBS’ “60 Minutes” when asked if the wars in Israel and Ukraine were more than just a war. The United States can take it upon itself at once. “We have the ability to do it and we have an obligation to do it. …And if we don’t do it, who will?

In Israel, Biden is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials before heading to Jordan. He was originally scheduled to meet with King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Abbas.

However, Abbas withdrew his scheduled participation due to the destruction of the hospital in Gaza.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict It had been going on for decades and, to a large extent, involved the same cadre of men. Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. Abbas has been the Palestinian president for nearly 20 years. Abdullah II has been king since 1999 – and he invited Biden The Jordanian king is a loyal ally in a “difficult neighborhood.” Sisi is the newest leader and has been president since 2014.

It is also important for these leaders to avoid a prolonged, all-out regional escalation, especially as Egypt and Jordan face increasing economic turmoil.

in September, International Monetary Fund He issued a report in which he said that Egypt and Jordan are among the countries in the region that “stand on the brink of a debt crisis.” Egypt in particular suffers from high inflation rates.

Neither country is willing to absorb refugees. Jordan already has a large Palestinian population, and the country is dealing with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere nearby.

With tens of thousands of troops amassed along the Israel-Gaza border, Israel is expected to launch a ground invasion – but plans remain uncertain. American officials refused to specify whether the Israelis were postponing Biden’s visit.

“We are preparing for the next stages of the war,” Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said. “We haven’t said what they will be. Everyone is talking about a ground attack. It might be something different.”

Meanwhile, the death toll is rising even without the next phase of the war. Israeli raids on Gaza killed at least 2,700 people and injured more than 9,700 others, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. A ministry official said that nearly two-thirds of those killed were children.

There are another 1,200 people across Gaza It is believed to be buried under the rubbledead or alive. More than a million Palestinians fled their homes Nearly half of Gaza’s population — 60% of whom are now in the area about 8 miles (14 kilometers) south of the evacuation zone, according to the United Nations.

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Associated Press writers Josh Bok in Washington, Joseph Federman in Jerusalem, and Matthew Lee in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

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