President Joe Biden stated that an “errant rocket fired by a terrorist group” appears to have caused an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City on 17 October 2023, resulting in hundreds of casualties and widespread protests in the Middle East. The White House National Security Council reported that Israel was not responsible for the hospital explosion, based on their analysis of imagery, intercepts, and open-source information.
The hospital incident occurred amidst ongoing hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, notably Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Tensions escalated as the Hamas-run Health Ministry blamed an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military attributed the blast to a misfired rocket by Islamic Jihad, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other nations.
The hospital, overcrowded with wounded civilians and individuals seeking refuge from bombings, witnessed a significant loss of life. The initial death toll, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, surpassed 500 people, with many more wounded. Humanitarian access to Gaza has been limited since a brutal attack by Hamas on October 7, leading to growing concerns about the worsening humanitarian crisis and a potential escalation of the conflict.
Protests erupted across the Middle East in response to the hospital explosion, with demonstrators condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. Jordan’s foreign minister canceled a regional summit originally scheduled for the day Biden was to meet regional leaders to express solidarity with Palestinians and reject the violence.
President Biden vowed to ensure the safety of Israel and announced plans to request an “unprecedented” support package for the nation, including the replenishment of its Iron Dome missile defense system. Additionally, he pledged $100 million in U.S. funding for Gaza and the West Bank. He encouraged Israel to learn from the U.S.’s experiences and advised against the abandonment of democratic principles in the face of threats.
The region continues to grapple with escalating violence, with the death toll exceeding 3,000 in Gaza and 1,400 in Israel, and widespread damage to infrastructure and human lives. International concerns focus on the humanitarian crisis and its potential to further destabilize the region. Efforts to secure a ceasefire and deliver essential supplies to civilians and hospitals remain challenging. In the midst of the turmoil, U.S. intelligence agencies have expressed concerns about domestic threats and violence in Jewish and Muslim communities.
Massive protests against Israeli actions have broken out in various Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. The region is marked by profound grief and anger, and it calls for an immediate ceasefire and peaceful resolution to the conflict.