Biden will immerse himself in the turmoil of the Middle East during his visit to Israel
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel on Wednesday in a diplomatic effort to prevent the war with Hamas from escalating into a larger conflict, a challenge that has become more difficult over time. Anger swept the Middle East After an explosion killed hundreds in a hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Biden was originally scheduled to visit Jordan as well, but his meetings with Arab leaders It has been cancelled As he left Washington, it cost him the chance to have the face-to-face talks he considered crucial to getting through this fraught moment.
Now Biden’s only stop will be Israel, where he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is preparing for a possible ground invasion of Gaza in response to the Hamas attacks on October 7, which killed 1,400 Israelis.
John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden “wants to get to know the Israelis about the situation on the ground” and will “ask some tough questions.”
“He’ll ask them as a friend,” Kirby added.
The president also plans to meet with Israeli first responders, families of victims killed and hostages captured when Hamas infiltrated Israel.
Nearly 2,800 Palestinians were killed in Israeli raids on Gaza. There are 1,200 other people It is believed to be buried under the rubbleHealth authorities said, dead or alive.
These numbers predate the explosion in Al-Ahly Hospital Tuesday. No clear cause of the explosion was determined.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said an Israeli air strike caused the destruction. The Israeli military denied involvement and blamed a misfired rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group. However, those are also organized Responsibility denied.
Biden said in a statement that he was “angry and deeply saddened by the explosion that occurred at the National Arab Hospital in Gaza and the resulting huge loss of life.” He also said he had “ordered my national security team to continue gathering information about exactly what happened.”
Protests swept the region after deaths occurred in the hospital that was treating wounded Palestinians and housing a larger number of those who were seeking shelter to escape the fighting.
Hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets of major West Bank cities, including Ramallah. More people joined protests in Beirut, Lebanon, and Amman, Jordan, where an angry crowd gathered outside the Israeli embassy.
Anger over the hospital explosion scuppered Biden’s plans to visit Jordan, where King Abdullah II had planned to host meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. But Abbas withdrew in protest, and the summit was later cancelled.
Kirby said Jordan declared three days of mourning after the hospital explosion and that Biden understood the move and was part of a “mutual” decision to cancel the Jordanian leg of his trip. He said that Biden will have the opportunity to speak with Arab leaders by phone upon his return to Washington.
Ayman Safadi, Jordanian Foreign Minister, told the state television network that the war is “pushing the region to the brink of the abyss.”
There are also concerns about the possibility of a new front breaking out along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah is active. The organization was supported by Iran Clashes with Israeli forces.
A lifelong believer in the power of personal diplomacy, Biden’s trip will test the limits of American influence in the Middle East at a volatile time. This is his second trip to the conflict zone this year, after his visit to Ukraine last February to show solidarity with the country fighting the Russian invasion.
The visit to Israel coincides with increasing humanitarian concerns in Gaza, as Israel has cut off the flow of food, fuel and water. Mediators are struggling to break the deadlock over providing supplies to desperate civilians, aid groups and hospitals.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has 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 agreement and came away with a green light to develop a plan on how aid will enter Gaza and be distributed. On civilians.
“We are optimistic that we will be able to deliver some humanitarian aid,” Kirby said.
Although it is only a modest achievement on the surface, US officials stressed that Blinken’s talks led to a significant change in Israel’s position – that Gaza will remain cut off from fuel, electricity, water and other basic supplies.
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.
AP writer Matthew Lee in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on apnews.com