Biden says Israel will allow humanitarian aid to cross from Egypt into southern Gaza

Palestinians say explosion at Gaza hospital was caused by Israeli air strike, while Israel says it was caused by failed rocket launch by Islamic Jihad

US president Joe Biden has said Israel will allow humanitarian aid to cross from Egypt into the southern Gaza Strip. Mr Biden announced the breakthrough following talks with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv, where he said that, based on current assessments, Israel was not responsible for an explosion at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday that killed hundreds of people.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that food, water and medicine would be allowed for Gaza refugees in the south of the strip, but stressed that Israel would prevent the assistance reaching Hamas, without elaborating.

Some 600,000 Gaza residents have fled to the south of the country in an effort to avoid heavy Israeli air strikes, launched in the wake of an attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7th that killed 1,400 people, most of them civilians. More than 3,000 people in the strip have been killed by Israeli attacks.

Mr Netanyahu made it clear Israel would not allow humanitarian assistance to be transferred via Israel while Israeli hostages – taken during the Hamas attack – remained in Gaza. He demanded that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the captives. Israel says 199 people have been taken hostage, although Hamas says the figure is higher.


Mr Biden, speaking at the end of a whirlwind visit – the first time a US president has travelled to Israel during a war – said the US would do everything to bring the hostages home. He said the Hamas cross-border attack on October 7th was reminiscent of the Holocaust. But he stressed that Palestinians were also suffering.

“The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas,” he said, accusing Hamas of using civilians as human shields. “I was outraged and saddened by the enormous loss of life at the hospital in Gaza,” Mr Biden said, referring to Tuesday night’s strike at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City. “Based on the information we’ve seen to date it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.”

Palestinian officials said Tuesday’s explosion was caused by an Israeli air strike. Israel said it was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame.

A spokeswoman for the White House national security council confirmed on Wednesday that a US analysis of available data indicated that “Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza”.

The Israeli army on Wednesday released aerial images and an intercept of an alleged conversation between militants to back its claim that a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad militants fell short and hit the hospital compound.

The Palestinian health ministry on Wednesday said that at least 471 people were killed in Tuesday night’s explosion, with 314 injured.

Many leaders in the Middle East have blamed Israel on the hospital explosion, and anger erupted across the Arab world following the incident. Arab states issued statements condemning Israel, and spontaneous demonstrations erupted including in Ramallah in the West Bank aimed against Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and in Arab capitals Amman, Beirut and Rabat.

The explosion at the hospital “must be investigated, certainly, as a war crime”, President Michael D Higgins has said.

“It’s very, very important that there will be a reliable investigation as to how it came to be, who was responsible, what the consequences are,” Mr Higgins told reporters in Rome, noting that there were “contesting versions” of what had happened. “The facts are that people have lost their lives, that people have been killed...It must be investigated, certainly as a war crime.”

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times