President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday and told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that an explosion at a hospital in Gaza was not caused by Israel but “appears” to be the responsibility of “the other team.”
“The point is, is that I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion of the hospital in Gaza yesterday, and based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you, but there’s a lot of people out there not sure, so we’ve got a lot — we’ve got to overcome a lot of things,” Biden said.
The president was asked during a meeting later Wednesday with Israeli community members what made him sure that was the case.
“The data I was shown by my Defense Department,” Biden said.
Speaking later on Wednesday, Biden put a finer point on his assessment.
“Based on the information we have seen to date it appears a result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza,” he said.
The White House National Security Council reiterated that view in a post on X, formerly called Twitter, on Wednesday.
“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,” said NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
Biden had said in a statement before he departed Israel that he instructed his national security team to “continue gathering information about what exactly happened.”
The president arrived Wednesday morning local time for a whirlwind trip amid rising tensions in the Middle East. Terrorist attacks by Hamas, a militant group that controls Gaza, left more than 1,000 Israelis dead, and Israel’s retaliation on Gaza has killed thousands there and raised alarms about a growing humanitarian crisis.
The trip became increasingly fraught after a hospital explosion in Gaza on Tuesday that killed hundreds of people, including patients who were seeking treatment and refuge amid heavy aerial bombardment by Israel over the last week.
Hamas and some Arab nations blamed the explosion on an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military said it was caused by a wayward rocket fired by another Palestinian militant group. The incident has sparked concerns about a wider conflict in the region as protests erupted in the West Bank and in neighboring countries.
Biden was originally expected to travel to Jordan during his trip to the Middle East for meetings with leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. That portion of the trip was scrapped in the aftermath of the hospital explosion, however, with an announcement made by the White House as Biden was boarding Air Force One.
The president embraced Netanyahu upon arriving in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning, and the two briefly addressed reporters ahead of a private meeting.
Biden said he was outraged by the explosion at the Gaza hospital but also expressed concern about the actions of Hamas, which took hostages during its attacks against Israel that included some American citizens.
“They have committed atrocities that make ISIS look somewhat more rational,” Biden said.
Netanyahu thanked Biden for coming to Israel, calling the visit “deeply, deeply moving.”
Biden has been unequivocal in his support for Israel in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and his administration has repositioned military assets in the region and provided munitions and interceptors for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
Israel is preparing for a ground offensive against Gaza, and Biden in a recent “60 Minutes” interview said that while the Israelis have a right to respond, a reoccupation of Gaza would be a mistake.
The president during his trip to Israel is set to meet with Israeli first responders and families of victims of the Hamas attacks. He is also expected to speak about the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, as food, water and electricity have become scarce in the tiny enclave.
John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Israel that Biden “wants to get a sense from the Israelis on the situation on the ground” and will “ask some tough questions” of Netanyahu.
Updated at 11:08 a.m. ET