President Joe Biden arrived after Air Force One to tell reporters he believed an early U.S. intelligence assessment of a hospital explosion in Gaza — and appeared to mock Hamas for its marksmanship.
Biden, who wore casual clothes after his seven-hour visit to Israel, was asked about Muslim and Arab people in the region who do not necessarily believe Israel and the US, who said it was likely an errant Islamic Jihad missile that hit the hospital and resulted in massive casualties.
“I can understand that,” Biden said, hours after saying on the ground in Tel Aviv that it appeared “the other team” was responsible.
“You’d notice I don’t say things like that unless I have confidence in the source I’ve been given,” he said.
President Joe Biden said the rocket that appeared to explode in a Gaza hospital had a “different footprint” than a projectile that could have come from Israel. He cited his belief in the Pentagon’s intelligence analysis
“Our Department of Defense says it was highly unlikely” that it came from Israel.
He said it had a “different footprint,” before stopping short of providing more details.
“You notice I didn’t say it at first,” he said, referring to his hours-long delay before commenting. “I wanted to make sure I knew.”
“I am also not suggesting that Hamas did this deliberately. It’s that whole thing: learning how to shoot straight,” he said, after Israel blamed another Palestinian faction, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“It is not the first time that Hamas has launched something that did not work,” he said.
Biden came to the back of Air Force One to talk to reporters as he returned from Israel. Safety spokesman John Kirby can be seen to his left
Biden took long pauses and occasionally interrupted his own train of thought during his remarks.
People inspect the area of Al-Ahli Hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in an explosion that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other
Biden said he analyzed that an errant rocket from Gaza was likely to blame
The destruction provoked anger in the Arab streets. Biden said he could ‘understand’ the outrage, but said Wednesday he thought the ‘other team’ was responsible
But after accepting Israel’s version of events, Biden dodged a question when asked directly whether Israel followed the rules of war. Biden said immediately after the brutal Hamas attack in Israel in October that he had discussed with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu that democracies like the US and Israel follow the rules of war and do not target civilians.
“Nice to talk to you all,” Biden said, turning and walking away after a reporter asked the question.
The government has faced questions about Israel’s decision to cut off Gaza’s water and energy supplies as the country prepares for a possible ground invasion of Gaza.
The Biden administration is expected to ask Congress for billions in additional aid to Israel within days. The military has deployed two aircraft carrier groups, while another 2,000 troops have been deployed to the region and an air armada has been dispatched. Biden has warned other players against taking action to expand the conflict.
Biden ignored some reporters’ questions, took long pauses during some of his answers and abruptly interrupted some of his own.
‘What do you think?’ he asked a reporter if he felt it necessary to come to Israel for personal diplomacy.
“I’m rooting for him,” he said when asked about Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) failed attempts to be elected chairman.
He started talking about his personal visit, during a trip that involved planning a trip to Jordan after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas withdrew following the hospital explosion.
“People are looking for something to grab onto, something that gives them a sense of hope,” Biden said.
Biden also spoke about his phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who was due to join him in Amman, Jordan, before the Gaza explosion.
He said Sisi agreed to open Rafah to allow 20 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and that he “deserves a lot of credit” for the move.
“If Hamas seizes them or doesn’t let it through… then it will end,” Biden vowed.
“He was completely cooperative,” Biden said, adding that he “acted just like Bibi.”
“Israel has been badly victimized, but the truth is they have an opportunity to alleviate the suffering of people who have nowhere to go… that’s what they have to do,” Biden said.
His government has been answering questions for days about how to create humanitarian corridors for Palestinian residents of Gaza to flee amid an Israeli evacuation order.
“We are going to get people out,” he said, after discussing the issue with Netanyahu during his trip and providing humanitarian aid. “I was very blunt about the need to get humanitarian aid to Gaza.”