Israel Latest: Biden Meets Netanyahu After Blast Stokes Tensions

US President Joe Biden suggested Israel wasn’t responsible for the deadly blast at a Gaza City hospital that killed hundreds and threatened to plunge the region into chaos.

(Bloomberg) — US President Joe Biden suggested Israel wasn’t responsible for the deadly blast at a Gaza City hospital that killed hundreds and threatened to plunge the region into chaos. 

“I’m deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital,” Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after landing in Tel Aviv. “And based on what I’ve seen that appears as though it was done by the other team.”  

Biden added that there were “a lot of people out there not sure” about who was responsible. The attack, which drew condemnation from Arab governments, who blamed Israel, will complicate US efforts to contain the conflict. Israel and Hamas — designated a terrorist group by the US and Europe — traded blame for the attack. 

For more on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.

Biden Meets Netanyahu (11:53 a.m.)

President Joe Biden suggested Israel wasn’t responsible for the blast at a Gaza City hospital. In Tel Aviv, Biden will sit with Netanyahu and senior aides before a larger discussion with Israel’s war cabinet to discuss the country’s defense-assistance needs. 

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were among countries to condemn the attack and blame Israel for it, and a summit between Biden, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was canceled.

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 500 people were killed in the explosion, which it blamed on an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military said the hospital had been hit in an attempted missile strike by the Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad, while the Pentagon said it didn’t immediately have information about who was responsible. 

Protests broke out in several major cities around the region.

Higher UK Domestic Terror Threat (12:00 p.m.)

The head of Britain’s domestic spy agency warned the current conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories increases the nation’s terror risk, as he singled out Iran as a cause for concern.

“There clearly is the possibility that profound events in the Middle East will either generate more volume of UK threat and/or change its shape in terms of what is being targeted, in terms of how people are taking inspiration,” Ken McCallum, MI5 director general, told media in the US on Wednesday. His office confirmed the remarks.

Egypt Rejects Attempt to Move Palestinians (10:20 a.m.)

Moving Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula could lead to that territory being used as a base for operations against Israel, Egypt’s El-Sisi said Wednesday. At a joint press conference with Germany’s chancellor, El-Sisi suggested Palestinians could be relocated to Israel’s Negev Desert until the end of the fighting.

Germany’s Scholz said his country and Egypt are “united in their goal of preventing a conflagration in the Middle East” and reiterated a warning to Iran and Hezbollah that it would be a “grave mistake” for them to intervene.

Israel Blames Islamic Jihad (10:03 a.m.)

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel has evidence that Tuesday’s hospital blast that killed hundreds of people in Gaza was the result of a failed attack by Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad fired about 10 missiles starting from 6:59 p.m. local time, shortly before the blast at the Gaza hospital, Hagari said at a press briefing in Tel Aviv. Hagari said Israel has also intercepted calls between Islamic Jihad members that prove the existence of a failed missile launch by the group.

Israel Continues to Strike Gaza (9:16 a.m.)

Over the past day, Israeli jets targeted Hamas operational command centers and military infrastructure and the strikes have killed two Hamas commanders, the IDF said. 

Shekel Steady, Oil Rises (8:25 a.m.)

The shekel was steady in early trade, following losses of more than 4% since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Late on Tuesday, the Bank of Israel underscored the urgency of stabilizing the shekel following its slide to an eight-year low, shifting expectations among economists and traders who bet on a big interest-rate cut as soon as next week. 

In global markets, investors sought the safety of gold, which jumped to the highest level in four weeks, while crude oil rose above $88 a barrel. A wider conflict could endanger crude flows, further tightening what was an already-stretched oil market following months of OPEC+ supply cuts. Iran has already warned of the scope for escalation, saying earlier this week that such an outcome was becoming “inevitable.” 

US Thwarts Drone Attack in Iraq (8:10 a.m.)

The US military thwarted an attack targeting its forces in Iraq early on Wednesday, intercepting two drones before they could strike, Reuters reported, citing two unidentified US officials. Officials declined to say who was behind the attack.

The drones were intercepted as they attempted to strike Iraq’s al Asad air base, which hosts American troops.

Israel Calls for Gazans to Move South (7:21 a.m.)

The Israel Defence Force ordered Gaza residents to move to the humanitarian zone in the Al-Mawasi area, where international aid will be directed in case needed. ‎The IDF reiterated its call for residents of the northern Gaza Strip and Gaza City to move to the Al-Mawasi area, located south of the Gaza Valley.

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