Protests Rock Middle East as Biden Visits, Clears Israel

President Joe Biden arrived TelAviv yesterday as protests rocked Middle East following an explosion that killed over 400 people at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza.

Arab countries and Palestinian officials condemned Israel over a deadly blast believed to have killed hundreds of people sheltering at a hospital in Gaza City.

But the US President said he believed data analysis presented to him by the Israeli authorities that Israel was not responsible for the Gaza attack.

Also, the UK Prime Minister, Ritchi Sunak, said the UK Intelligence services was analysing the hospital blast.

Biden, however, warned that Israel should not be consumed by rage, noting “all Palestinians are not Hamas” even as he pledged $100 million for Palestinian civilians to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

He said Israel agreed to allow humanitarian passage from Egypt to Gaza.

At a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet in Tell Aviv, Biden said the hospital blast “appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.”

He had indicated the U.S. did not hold Israel responsible for the attack in remarks he made shortly after landing in Tel Aviv but had not offered any details to support his claim.

“Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden said, speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He also said “a lot of people out there” weren’t sure what caused the explosion.

Asked to clarify his remarks, Biden later told reporters that his assessment was based on “the data I was shown by my Defence Department.”

Presidents of Egypt, Palestine and King of Jordan called off an earlier summit with Biden scheduled for Jordan following the hospital explosion.

Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq issued statements condemning Israel and accusing its military of bombing the hospital.

This came as Israel Defence Forces (IDF) rejected the allegation, accusing Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants of conducting a “failed rocket launch”, saying the lack of structural damage at the facility rules out the possibility of an airstrike.

Islamic Jihad described Israeli accusations as “false and baseless” and claimed that it did not use public facilities such as hospitals for military purposes, according to a written statement published yesterday.

Thousands of protesters shouting anti-Israel slogans gathered in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Tunisia. Protests also rocked the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters gathered near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan. One group made an attempt to “reach it,” but a security source said  security forces contained the situation.

Jordanian security forces also used teargas to disperse the protesters, according to two activists and videos posted to social media.

In Lebanon, hundreds of protesters gathered in the square that leads to the US embassy north of Beirut on Tuesday and tried to break through security barriers.

The “chaotic” scenes had calmed by the early hours of Wednesday.

Earlier, the US State Department issued a warning Tuesday asking American citizens not to travel to Lebanon.

Protesters also chanted anti-Israel slogans in Baghdad, Iraq.

Security officials in Baghdad said dozens of protesters attempted to cross a bridge that lead to the Green Zone – an area that houses Iraqi government offices and several embassies, including the US embassy – but security forces prevented them from doing so.

In Iran, rallies also took place outside the French and British embassies in Tehran, the country’s capital.

Demonstrators chanted “death to France, England, America, and the Zionists,” according to a video published by Iran state-run RNA news yesterday’s morning. Rallies also took place in other cities, including Esfahan and Qom.

Hundreds of people rallied in several areas in Tunis, Tunisia, state-run TAP news agency reported.

It said “mass protests were held on Tuesday night,” in several areas “in solidarity with the Palestinian people” and against Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

In Istanbul, Turkish security forces used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse protesters, who managed to force their way into a compound where the Israeli consulate is located.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on “all humanity to take action to stop this unprecedented brutality in Gaza,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that the attack on the hospital was “the latest example of Israel’s attacks devoid of the most basic human values.”

The blast resulted in Jordan canceling a planned summit between US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, a government body with limited self-rule in the West Bank.

Jordan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ayman Safadi, posted on X, “How many innocent Palestinians must die before Israel stops its war on Gaza?”

Safadi called for peace and said international law “can’t be selective,” and that the “World must speak clearly, act promptly against this war.

While the IDF has said it does not target hospitals, the UN and Doctors Without Borders say Israeli airstrikes struck medical facilities, including hospitals and ambulances.

Hospitals were already struggling to tend to the wounded across the territory, operating with shortages of electricity and water.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which oversees and funds the Al Ahli Baptist Hospital condemned the explosion, according to a statement from the church released on Tuesday.

“Gaza remains bereft of safe havens,” the diocese said, calling the blast a crime against humanity.

“Hospitals, by the tenets of international humanitarian law, are sanctuaries, yet this assault has transgressed those sacred boundaries,” the statement reads.

The Israeli Defence Forces presented imagery which it said showed that the destruction of the Al-Ahli Baptist hospital could not have been the result of an airstrike.


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