Biden to seek ‘unprecedented’ Israel aid package; pledges $100 million for humanitarian

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to Israel amid the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

UNITED NATIONS President Joe Biden reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, where he blamed a deadly hospital blast on militants inside Gaza.

“Based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears it was a result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza,” he said.

Biden also committed $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank, to support the more than 1 million people displaced by the ongoing conflict.

The president said he planned to ask Congress for an “unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense” but did not elaborate.

Biden arrived in Tel Aviv hours after an explosion killed hundreds of people taking shelter at the al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza.

“I was outraged and saddened by the enormous loss of life yesterday in the hospital in Gaza,” Biden said after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

Israel and Hamas have blamed each other for the deadly blast at the hospital. In the wake of the attack, Biden’s scheduled meeting in Amman, Jordan, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and King Abdullah II of Jordan was called off.

“The United States unequivocally stands for the protection of civilian life during conflict. And I grieve, I truly grieve for the families who were killed or wounded by this tragedy,” Biden said.

The president said the humanitarian aid would be delivered via U.N. agencies and international NGOs, and he warned Hamas not to commandeer the supplies, a common occurrence in Gaza.

“Let me be clear, if Hamas averts or steals the assistance, it will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people,” Biden said, adding that he would halt the aid if it did not flow to civilians.

Read live updates of the Israel-Hamas conflict

Meanwhile, Biden’s top diplomat at the United Nations vetoed a resolution put forward by Russia on humanitarian assistance in Gaza because it failed to “mention Israel’s right of self-defense” in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack carried out by Hamas.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield votes on a resolution regarding the situation in Israel and Gaza at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York, Oct. 18, 2023.

Bryan R. Smith | AFP | Getty Images

“Russia’s resolution, put forward without any consultations, makes no mention of Hamas — none. By failing to condemn Hamas, Russia is giving cover to a terrorist group that brutalizes innocent civilians. It is outrageous, it is hypocritical and it is indefensible,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the United Nations Security Council.

“Every member state should condemn Hamas’ terrorism and cruelty and every member state should call on Hamas to cease its endless barrage of rockets against Israel. This is not complicated. It’s not controversial. This is the bare minimum,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also said the U.S. was working to address urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza and called for diplomacy carried out by Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and regional partners to “play out.”

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