U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that a deadly blast at a Gaza Strip hospital appeared to be from “an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group,” and he pledged support to Israelis and humanitarian assistance to suffering Palestinians.
Biden traveled to Tel Aviv on a rapid visit to offer staunch U.S. support in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli villages and military bases by Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 people and took about 200 hostages.
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 militant 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 said the U.S. would provide $100 million in new funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. The United States has urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid in to help Palestinians.
The president said he would ask Congress this week for unprecedented aid to boost Israel in its fight with Hamas, aid that is expected to be folded into a massive $100 billion package in Congress.
But he also warned Israelis they should not give into 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 killed more than 3,000 Palestinians, Palestinian authorities say.
About the same time on Wednesday, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called for humanitarian pauses in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip.
The president made reference 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.