US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, enroute to Israel. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Washington: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday left the White House for a quick trip to Israel to show solidarity with the people of the country in the aftermath of the terrorist attack by Hamas. However, Biden had to abruptly scrap his trip to Jordan for a meeting with leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Palestine after the Palestinian Authority cancelled the summit following a huge explosion at a hospital in Gaza.
Hundreds of civilians are feared dead after a deadly blast at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza. Israel has denied its involvement in the bombing, while the Palestinians have held it responsible.
"I am outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted. Immediately upon hearing this news, I spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and have directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened," Biden said in a statement minutes before he boarded Air Force One for Israel.
"The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy," Biden said.
In a statement, the White House said after consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt.
"The President (Biden) sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza, and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded. He looks forward to consulting in person with these leaders soon, and agreed to remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days," said a White House official.
Following reports of the huge toll due to the Gaza hospital blast, Biden was briefed by his national security team, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer.
"The President spoke by phone with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who is still in the region. The President also spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan and with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President continues to receive regular updates," said the official.
Biden has been backing Israeli calls for eliminating Hamas following the attacks carried out by it on Israel on October 7 in which more than 1,300 people were killed and between 200 and 250 Israelis are said to have been taken to Gaza as hostages.