Gaza hospital attack was ‘done by the other team,’ Biden says, reiterates support of Israel

In Chicago, thousands gathered in Loop Wednesday in support of the Palestinian people.

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Thousands of people march in the Loop in downtown Chicago in support of the Palestinian people.

Thousands of people took part in a peaceful march in the Loop on Wednesday evening in support of the Palestinian people.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden vowed to show the world that the U.S. stands in solidarity with Israel during his visit there Wednesday and offered an assessment that the deadly explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital that prompted mass protests in Arab nations, Washington and Chicago apparently was not carried out by the Israeli military.

“Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting. But he said there were “a lot of people out there” who weren’t sure what caused the blast, which sparked protests throughout the Middle East.

President Joe Biden greets Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

President Joe Biden greets Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. Biden reassured Israel that the U.S. was firmly behind the Mideast ally following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed 1,400 people.

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The attack on Gaza City’s al-Ahli Hospital left hundreds dead and added pressure on an already strained health system in the region.

Biden later said he based his conclusion on “the data I was shown by my Defense Department.”

Israel said Wednesday its radar as well as independent video showed a rocket in a barrage fired by Palestinian militants misfired and caused a large explosion just as the blast hit the hospital. It said there was no crater, which would have been present with an airstrike, and it released a recording it said was between two Hamas militants who said the blast was believed to be a misfire by the group Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad dismissed Israel’s claims, pointing to Israel’s order that the hospital be evacuated in recent days and reports of a previous strike at the hospital that wounded four people as proof that it was an Israeli target.

Thousands gathered, many holding protest signs about the conflict in Gaza, in the Loop in support of the Palestinian people.

Thousands gathered Wednesday in the Loop in support of the Palestinian people. They decried an explosion that left hundreds dead at a Gaza hospital and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the region.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Protestors demand Israel end ‘its murderous siege’

Despite Biden’s assessment, thousands of supporters of the Palestinian cause gathered in downtown Chicago on Wednesday evening, accusing Israel of deliberately attacking the hospital and calling on the U.S. government to end its support of the country.

They held a moment of silence for Wadea Al-Fayoume, the 6-year-old Palestinian American boy from Plainfield Township who police said was fatally stabbed by his landlord because of his Muslim faith.

A small girl holding a Palestinian flag is among the pro-Palestinian demonstrators and Palestinian Americans who rallied in Federal Plaza over the alleged bombing of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Palestinian and Palestinian Americans rally Wednesday in Federal Plaza over the alleged bombing of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

Dr. Roa Qato, an OB-GYN, lamented the deaths of fellow health care workers in Gaza, who she said were simply trying to save lives.

“This hospital was operational, it was filled with patients, health and caregivers, thousands of people seeking a safe haven. Mr. Biden, you must demand Israel stop its murderous siege on Palestine,” Qato said. “To the doctors of Gaza, the mothers of Gaza, the children of Gaza, the beautiful people of Gaza, Chicago stands with you. Chicago fights with you.”

A close up of women who were among the pro-Palestinian and Palestinian Americans, many holding flags or signs, marching towards the Israeli Consulate in Chicago.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian and Palestinian Americans, many holding flags or signs, march Wednesday towards the Israeli Consulate in Chicago over the alleged bombing of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The march ended at the building housing the Israeli Consulate, where protesters set off fireworks. “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” they chanted.

A small group burned an Israeli flag, stomping on it and tearing it into smaller pieces. Organizers of the event who saw what was happening tried to stop them but were unsuccessful.

Biden to Israel: ‘While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it’

Biden had also been scheduled to visit Jordan to meet with Arab leaders Wednesday, but the summit was called off after the hospital explosion. His remarks in Tel Aviv spoke not just to the horrors that the Israelis had endured from the Hamas attack Oct. 7, but also to the growing humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

President Joe Biden speaks to the media aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington from Israel.

President Joe Biden speaks to the media aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington from Israel. Biden said he had spoken to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who agreed to reopen the country’s sealed border crossing with Gaza and allow up to 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies to cross.

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“I understand. Many Americans understand,” Biden said as he wrapped up his stay in Tel Aviv, likening the Hamas assault to the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people. “You can’t look at what has happened here ... and not scream out for justice,” he said.

“But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it,” he said. “After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

Still, Biden’s overarching message was that the U.S. was firmly behind Israel following the Hamas attack, which killed 1,400 people.

“I want you to know you’re not alone. We will continue to have Israel’s back as you work to defend your people,” Biden said. “We’ll continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians.”

Netanyahu again said Israel was not to blame for the hospital attack. “The entire world was rightfully outraged, but this outrage should be directed not at Israel but at the terrorists,” Netanyahu said during a subsequent meeting with Biden and Israel’s war cabinet.

He called the president’s visit “deeply, deeply moving,” adding, “I know I speak for all the people of Israel when I say thank you, Mr. President, thank you for standing with Israel today, tomorrow and always.”

Egypt to open border with Gaza

Aboard the flight back to Washington, Biden made progress when he spoke by phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi who agreed to reopen his country’s sealed border crossing with Gaza and allow up to 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies to cross.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Biden said roads near the crossing would first need hours of repairs, but that aid could begin rolling into the region by Friday. He suggested the aid could be distributed by international officials “which could take a little time” and added that, “if Hamas confiscates it, it’s going to end. We’re not going to send any aid to Hamas.”

Demonstrators rally near the U.S. Capitol building to demand a ceasefire against Palestinians in Gaza, during a protest that was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow.

Demonstrators rally Wednesday near the U.S. Capitol building to demand a ceasefire against Palestinians in Gaza. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested inside the Cannon House office building. That protest was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow.

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Sun-Times Staff Reporter Emmanuel Camarillo reported from Chicago. Contributing: Associated Press

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