Biden arrives in Israel as a "day of rage" is declared in Arab world with protests across region condemning Israeli attack. US agreed with the Israeli assessment and said that attack on a Gaza hospital was carried out by Palestinian militants.
Rina Bassist, Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
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Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023
11:00 pm: China ready to work with Egypt to bring ‘more stability’ to Middle East
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli that Beijing hopes to work with Cairo to bring “more stability” to the Middle East. “China is willing to enhance cooperation with Egypt . . . and inject more certainty and stability into the region and the world,” Xi told Madbouli at the conclusion of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in the Chinese capital.
8:40 pm: Biden plays balancing act in Israel-Hamas war
In a historic wartime visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Joe Biden expressed steadfast support but also included a subtle appeal for restraint as the war-torn country readies for a ground offensive inside the densely populated Gaza Strip. Elizabeth Hagedorn reports.
5:31 pm: Israel strikes Hezbollah targets in Lebanon
The IDF said in a post on X that it is striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. Earlier, Lebanon's National News Agency reported Israeli flares above Rmaych, in southern Lebanon, close to the Israeli border.
5:20 pm: Egypt to open Rafah crossing, Biden says
US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that Egypt had agreed to open the Rafah crossing to allow nearly 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza. The president thanked his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for the agreement, adding that they held a call beforehand.
“The bottom line is, Sisi deserves a lot of credit," Biden told reporters. The agreement is contingent, he added, on Hamas' behavior. "If Hamas confiscates them or doesn't let it get through … [the arrangement] is going to end," he said.
5:03 pm: Biden to address nation on Israel, Ukraine wars
President Joe Biden will address the nation from the Oval Office at 8:00 pm Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced.
In his speech, Biden will “discuss our response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine,” Jean-Pierre said.
4:25 pm: US dispatches USS Mount Whitney to eastern Mediterranean
The Pentagon confirmed that it was dispatching the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. “The Department remains focused on three primary objectives: First, supporting Israel’s defense through security assistance; second, sending a clear message of deterrence to any actors considering involvement in the conflict; and third, being vigilant against any threats to US forces," said the Pentagon. The USS Mount Whitney will join a number of other American ships already in the region, including two aircraft carriers.
4:01 pm: US military thwarts drone attacks in Iraq, troops with ‘minor injuries’
Troops based in western Iraq with the US-led coalition against ISIS sustained “minor injuries” in an attempted drone attack on their base early on Wednesday.
US personnel shot down one of the drones and damaged another before dawn on Wednesday at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province. A third drone targeted US personnel in northern Iraq later on Wednesday, resulting in no injuries, US Central Command confirmed in a press release.
While the number and nationalities of the personnel injured in the first attack were not immediately clear, the injuries include headaches and ringing in the ears of the affected personnel, Al-Monitor has learned.
The United States has not said who launched the attacks, but American troops have been taking force protection measures across the Middle East amid new threats by Iran-backed militias over Israel’s war in Gaza.
3:45 pm: US Intel Committee chairs ‘confident’ Palestinian groups hit Gaza hospital
The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Palestinian militants were responsible for Tuesday’s strike on a Gaza hospital. “The Senate Intelligence Committee has received and reviewed intelligence related to the attack on al-Ahli hospital in Gaza. Based on this information, we feel confident that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike,” Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio said in a statement.
3:38 pm: Hezbollah says two fighters killed in southern Lebanon
Hezbollah announced via its news outlet Al-Manar that two of its fighters were killed in the town of Aitaroun in southern Lebanon. The group did not provide further details. Hezbollah and Israel have clashed on the border several times since the Israel-Hamas war began.
3:33 pm: Anti-US protests in Iraq after Gaza strike
Supporters of Iran-backed militia protested against Israel and the United States in Baghdad on Wednesday evening following the deadly strike against the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. Earlier, the US military thwarted a drone attack targeting its forces in the country, Al-Monitor's Adam Lucente reports.
3:00 pm: US intelligence suggests Israel did not bomb Gaza hospital
Pentagon officials say independent US intelligence casts doubt on allegations the IDF bombed the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in northern Gaza, but cautioned that not all information is in. Al-Monitor’s Jared Szuba reports from Washington.
12:45 pm: Pro-Gaza protests in Turkey target Israel's consulate, McDonald's
Thousands took to the streets across Turkey to show solidarity with Gaza as Israel its the travel alert for Turkey and readied plans to evacuate its citizens. Ezgi Akin reports from Ankara. Ezgi Akin reports from Ankara.
12:35 pm: US vetos UN resolution on Gaza humanitarian pause
The United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas war to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the international community should let US diplomacy on the aid "play out." The United Kingdom and Russia abstained. The resolution was drafted by Brazil, according to Reuters.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is growing increasingly dire, with around 3,000 dead and shortages of fuel and water. Negotiations to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the enclave continue.
12:18 pm: US shuts down its Adana consulate in Turkey citing Gaza protests
The US Embassy in Ankara announced that it was closing its consulate in Turkey’s southern province of Adana until further notice, citing expected protests in the upcoming weeks over the Gaza hospital bombing. “Any gathering, even those intended to be peaceful, could escalate and turn violent,” a security alert by the embassy said. It added that US government personnel in the country have been instructed to minimize movements. Scores of demonstrators who gathered around the Incirlik Air Base overnight, which hosts US troops, hurled rocks at the compound to protest against Israel.
11:29 am: Biden leaves Israel after 7.5-hour solidarity visit
Sirens warning against rocket fire from Gaza sounded in Israel’s center and coastal Sharon regions just as US President Joe Biden was leaving the country. After meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and participating in a meeting of Israel’s war cabinet, Biden met with survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
11:15 am: ‘Day of rage’ protests rock Lebanon
Several pro-Palestinian rallies took place around Lebanon, with demonstrators heeding Hezbollah’s call for a “day of rage.” The US and French Embassies heightened their travel alerts. Beatrice Farhat reports from Beirut.
11:00 am: Netanyahu agrees to Biden’s request for humanitarian aid via Rafah
Following a meeting in Tel Aviv with US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel accepted the American request to allow the transport of humanitarian aid to Gaza via Egypt's Rafah crossing. A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said that no humanitarian aid will be transferred to Gaza from Israeli territory as long as hostages are held in Gaza. Israel demands that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the hostages, said the office.
10:35 am: Pentagon concludes Islamic Jihad behind Gaza hospital blast: ABC
Two US officials told ABC news network that the Pentagon has independently concluded the Gaza hospital blast was likely caused by an errant Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short of its target.
10:18 am: Biden announces $100 million in aid to Palestinians during Israel trip
US President Joe Biden announced $100 million in new aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip during a speech in Israel. The president did not provide details on the funding.
Biden visited Israel on Wednesday amid the ongoing war with Hamas, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and attending a session with Israel's war cabinet.
10:00 am: Biden suggests Gaza hospital blast committed by Palestinian militants
On a solidarity visit to Israel on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden suggested the blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip that killed hundreds appeared to have been caused by Palestinian forces, though he did not say whether responsibility lies with Hamas or with Islamic Jihad.
At a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said, “I wanted to be here today for a simple reason: I want the people of Israel and the people of the world to know where the United States stands. . . . I wanted to personally come and make that clear.”
After meeting with Netanyahu, the US president also attended a session with Israel’s war cabinet before meeting with first responders and survivors of the Hamas attack. Rina Bassist reports.
8:47 am: Pentagon says US troops downed attack drones over Iraq
US troops at the Ain al-Asad air base, in Iraq's Anbar province, downed two attack drones before dawn on Wednesday.
“An attempted attack against US and coalition forces in Iraq was disrupted in the early morning of Oct. 18,” a Pentagon spokesperson said. “Two one-way drones were shot down in the attack. There were no injuries to any forces during the attempted attack.”
8:32 am: Treasury sanctions Hamas members in Gaza, elsewhere
The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions Wednesday on a group of 10 Hamas members and their financial facilitators located in Gaza and across the region, including in Turkey and Qatar.
The designations target Hamas members managing assets in a secret investment portfolio, a Qatar-based financial facilitator with close ties to the Iranian government, a key Hamas commander and a Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator, the Treasury Department said.
“The United States is taking swift and decisive action to target Hamas’s financiers and facilitators following its brutal and unconscionable massacre of Israeli civilians, including children,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. Elizabeth Hagedorn reports.
8:06 am: Blinken, Abbas speak after Gaza hospital blast
In a call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences for hundreds believed to have died in the explosion at a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday.
“The Secretary emphasized that the United States unequivocally condemns all terrorism and stressed the United States’ firm commitment to upholding the law of war, to include important protections for civilians,” according to a readout of their call published Wednesday morning.
In protest of the Gaza hospital blast that Hamas blamed on Israel, Abbas backed out of a now-canceled summit in Amman between Biden and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. The Israeli military said the fatal explosion was caused by a misfired rocket from Islamic Jihad group.
7:52 am: Jordanian protesters, police clash near Israeli Embassy
Clashes broke out between Jordanian protesters and security forces during a rally held near the Israeli Embassy in the capital Amman. According to the local Roya news agency, several Jordanians had gathered in the Rabieh area of the capital where the embassy is located in a show of support for Palestinians and to denounce last night’s deadly attack against a Gaza hospital.
6:35 am: Israeli gas continues to flow despite Gaza conflict, but risks remain
Israel is managing to maintain a steady supply of gas domestically and to international customers despite the country's conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, according to Russell Hardy, chief executive officer of independent energy trader Vitol. Jack Dutton reports from the Energy Intelligence Forum in London.
5:36 am: US Embassy tells US citizens in Lebanon to avoid Awkar area
The US Embassy in Lebanon has asked its US citizens to avoid the area where the embassy is located in the town of Awkar, north of Beirut, ahead of potential protests. Hundreds of angry protesters had marched toward the embassy on Tuesday night shortly after the deadly attack on a Gaza hospital that left hundreds dead. “The US embassy remains open for business. We are prioritizing providing consular services to US citizens in Lebanon,” the embassy said in a statement on the X platform.
5:40 am: Palestinian death toll reaches 3,200
More than 3,200 Palestinians have been killed and at least 11,000 others wounded in Gaza since the conflict began on Oct. 7, the Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip said.
4:45 am: Biden says hospital explosion was caused by 'other team'
US President Joe Biden reiterated American support for Israel during his visit to the country on Wednesday, saying that Hamas has "committed atrocities that make ISIS look somewhat more rational." Referring to the explosion at the al-Ahli Gaza hospital, Biden said, "Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you," adding, "But there are a lot of people out there who are not sure." Biden is now meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a few of his associates in Tel Aviv. He will later participate in a meeting of the Israeli war cabinet.
3:48 am: Palestinian news agency reports cyber attack
WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, said its Arabic page has come under a cyberattack, temporarily preventing it from publishing news and reports. “This attack comes within the framework of fighting the Palestinian media and silencing truth platforms that convey the suffering and steadfastness of Palestinian people, especially in light of the ongoing Israeli occupation aggression,” the agency said.
3:25 am: Blinken calls Abbas, offers condolences for Gaza hospital victims
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to offer his condolences over the deadly airstrike at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of people. Blinken also expressed his support for the Palestinian people and “their legitimate aspirations for self-determination,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a press statement.
3:17 am: German chancellor offers to support Egyptian efforts to de-escalate
On a visit to Egypt after a solidarity trip to Israel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and expressed his support for efforts by Cairo to de-escalate tensions in Gaza. Scholz said he discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza with Sisi and called for the strike at Gaza's al-Ahli Arab Hospital to be investigated.
1:58 am: UN Security Council to vote on Gaza resolution
The UN Security Council scheduled a vote for Wednesday on a Brazil-sponsored resolution that initially condemned the attack by Hamas on Israel as well as all violence against Gaza civilians. Russia has submitted several amendments, and negotiations are ongoing for the final draft. The Security Council will also hold an emergency meeting over the strike at Gaza's al-Ahli Arab Hospital.
1:02 am: IDF publishes visuals, video footage to prove not behind Gaza hospital bombing
The IDF published a map with the trajectory of the rocket launched from the west at Gaza's al-Ahli Arab Hospital to prove that its fighter jets had not struck it. It also published video footage showing the blast site, which lacked the typical crater left behind after Israeli bombings.
1:00 am: IDF asks Gazans to evacuate to Al-Mawasi
The IDF has asked residents in the north of the Gaza Strip to evacuate toward the southern town of Al-Mawasi, where international humanitarian aid will be directed. Open spaces west of the city of Khan Yunis were also recommended.
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