- Biden visits Israel to show solidarity amid violence in Gaza.
- Israel allows only 20 aid trucks to enter Gaza via Egypt border.
- Biden stresses majority of Palestinians not affiliated with Hamas.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday extended all-out support to Israel on a solidarity visit in which he blamed a Palestinian group for a deadly rocket strike on a Gaza hospital, which left hundreds of Palestinians martyred.
Biden also announced plans for “unprecedented” aid for Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, as part of a wider $100 billion package that includes support for Ukraine.
Upon his arrival, Biden stated that the tragic explosion at the hospital in the Gaza Strip appeared to be the result of “an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group”.
While addressing reporters in Tel Aviv, as he was headed back home after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said that he had been direct with the Israelis about the necessity of backing the delivery of supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza.
“Israel has been badly victimised but the truth is they have an opportunity to relieve the suffering of people who have nowhere to go … it’s what they should do,” Biden said during a refueling stop for Air Force One at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Biden praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for agreeing to open the Rafah border crossing to allow 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza and pledged the US would get people trapped in Gaza out.
“We’re going to get people out,” Biden said without offering details.
Aid for Israel, Gaza
Additionally, Biden said the US would provide $100 million in new funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, Reuters reported.
The president said he would ask Congress this week for unprecedented aid to boost Israel in its fight with Hamas, which is expected to be folded into a massive $100 billion package in Congress.
Biden is set to submit a $60 billion supplemental spending request to Congress for Ukraine and $10 billion for Israel, according to a source familiar with the matter. Biden is expected to request this swiftly as Washington responds to the Hamas attack on Israel and continues to support Ukraine amid a Russian invasion.
Biden was mulling a supplemental request of roughly $100 billion that would include defence aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan as well as funds for initiatives to bolster security on the US border with Mexico, multiple individuals familiar with the request told Reuters on Tuesday.
Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he is unaware of the $100 billion package but has heard that the administration is considering $10 billion for Israel.
He also said that Biden has not yet settled on a final figure and the breakdown has not been communicated to Congress, as Congress controls spending under US law.
The 20 trucks carrying aid via the Rafah crossing would cross into Gaza in coming days, a White House official said, adding the US hoped more trucks would be allowed entry eventually.
Biden said Israelis should not give in to their “rage” after the attack and follow the law of war.
“You are a Jewish state, but you’re also a democracy,” Biden said after meeting Israeli leaders. “Like the United States, you don’t live by the rules of terrorists. You live by the rule of law…. You can’t give up what makes you who you are.”
Biden stressed that the vast majority of Palestinians were not affiliated with Hamas.
“Palestinian people are suffering greatly as well,” Biden said. Retaliatory Israeli strikes after the Hamas attacks have martyred more than 3,000 Palestinians, Palestinian authorities say.
At the same time on Wednesday, the US vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called for pauses in the conflict between Israel and Hamas fighters to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip.
The US president referred to the Nazi Holocaust of World War Two when saying that Israel had the backing of its friends.
“We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever,” he said.
Earlier he said he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tough questions during a meeting where they also discussed humanitarian needs, security assistance and information on unaccounted Americans.
“I asked tough questions as a friend of Israel. We will continue to deter any actor wanting to widen this conflict.” Biden said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Biden travelled to Israel to offer US support in the aftermath of the October 7 attack on Israeli villages and military bases by Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 people and took about 200 hostages, Israel has said.
His trip was upended by a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital on Tuesday evening. Palestinian officials blamed it on an Israeli air strike. Israel said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied blame.
“Based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group from Gaza,” Biden said.
“The United States unequivocally stands for the protection of civilian life during conflict and I grieve … for the families who were killed or wounded by this tragedy.”
Biden later told reporters he understood why some people across the region were sceptical about who was responsible. “I don’t say things like that unless I have faith in the source I got it … our Defense Department says it’s highly unlikely it’s the Israelis,” he said.