Israel-Gaza war updates: Biden to address the nation as he returns from Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel - US President Joe Biden on a visit to Israel Wednesday backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance blaming Islamist Palestinian militants for a rocket strike on a hospital that killed hundreds in war-torn Gaza.

US President Joe Biden (3rd from l.) backed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's explanation for the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital bombing in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden (3rd from l.) backed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's explanation for the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital bombing in Gaza.  © REUTERS

Arab countries have blamed Israel, which has rained bombs on Gaza since the bloody October 7 attack by Hamas, but Joe Biden voiced support for Israel's position that a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket had hit the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital.

"I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday," Biden said at a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the morning after the blast that killed at least 500 people, according to Gaza authorities.

"And, based on what I've seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you," said the US president, referring to the armed movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

World Refugee Day: Lawmakers urge Biden administration to open pathway for Palestinians
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"But there's a lot of people out there not sure, so we have to overcome a lot of things," Biden added after the first protests erupted against Israel and the US, with more expected across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

He has expressed "iron-clad" US support for Israel and its military campaign in Gaza.

UPDATE, October 18, 5:30 PM EDT: Biden will address the nation and returns from Israel

The White House has confirmed the president will give a speech from the Oval Office on Thursday about both the Israel and Hamas conflict and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Tomorrow, President Biden will address the nation to discuss our response to Hamas' terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia's ongoing brutal war against Ukraine," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Biden also said Wednesday Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will allow a first batch of humanitarian aid trucks through to Gaza.

"He agreed to... let up to 20 trucks through to begin with," Biden told reporters after calling Sisi from Air Force One while returning from his Israel trip.

The shipment would likely not cross until Friday and would be distrubuted by the UN, Biden added.

"If Hamas confiscates it, doesn't let it get through ... then it's going to end," he warned.

UPDATE, October 18, 12:35 PM EDT: US says Israel is not responsible for Gaza hospital explosion

US intelligence shows Israel was not to blame for a strike on a Gaza hospital, the White House claimed Wednesday, as President Joe Biden said it appeared to be the result of an "errant rocket" fired by a "terrorist group."

"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," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on social media.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have accused Israel of perpetrating the strike.

UPDATE, October 18, 11:00 AM EDT: Humanitarian aid breakthrough

As Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza continues, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced it would allow some humanitarian aid to enter the enclave.
As Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza continues, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced it would allow some humanitarian aid to enter the enclave.  © REUTERS

Israel will let aid enter Gaza via Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Wednesday, saying only "food, water, and medicine" would be allowed into the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

"In light of President Biden's demand, Israel would not foil the supply of humanitarian aid via Egypt," the prime minister's office said, announcing a cabinet decision.

The statement noted that aid to civilians in the southern Gaza Strip would be allowed "so long as these supplies do not reach Hamas," which rules Gaza.

UPDATE, October 18, 8:00 AM EDT: Palestinian death toll nears 3,500

At least 3,478 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel began bombarding the coastal enclave, the territory's health ministry said Wednesday. More than 12,000 others have been wounded.

A majority of the casualties are women and children.

With bombing ongoing amid the catastrophic humanitarian situation, 800 genocide scholars and human rights lawyers issued a letter warning of a "potential genocide in Gaza."

UPDATE, October 18, 7:30 AM EDT: IDF and Palestinian groups trade blame

The Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in central Gaza was hit by a rocket Tuesday night, with thousands sheltering in the building at the time.
The Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in central Gaza was hit by a rocket Tuesday night, with thousands sheltering in the building at the time.  © REUTERS

As what's left of Gaza's emergency service is still sifting through the rubble of the hospital bombed on Tuesday, the battle continues to rage not only on the ground, but also in the information realm.

The Israel Defense Forces spent Wednesday morning briefing the media that it had evidence the atrocity was caused by a failed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket. Though it admitted some Israeli operations were carried out in the vicinity of the hospital, the IDF categorically denied it had struck the hospital, and posted a recording on X, allegedly featuring Hamas communications that place the blame on a PIJ missile.

Both Palestinian groups, meanwhile, have strenuously denied the accusation and continue to blame Israel, which they point out has form when it comes to skirting responsibility for crimes by releasing disinformation.

The killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been cited as a prime example.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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