Oct 18 (Reuters) – A strike on a Gaza hospital killed hundreds of Palestinians, deepening tensions in the Middle East and raising the stakes for U.S. President Joe Biden as he flies to Israel on Wednesday to signal support for its war against Hamas.
* The blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital killed between 300 and 500 people, according to health ministry sources and a civil defence chief in Gaza. Palestinian officials said an Israeli air strike hit the hospital, while Israel blamed the blast on a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied responsibility.
* “The entire world should know: It was barbaric terrorists in Gaza that attacked the hospital in Gaza, and not the IDF,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.
* Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, told Reuters: “This is a lie and fabrication, it is completely incorrect. The occupation is trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians.”
* The Israeli military urged Gaza City residents to relocate southward, saying in a new evacuation advisory there was a “humanitarian zone” with down the coast of the Palestinian enclave.
* Yossi Landav, 55, has worked in search and rescue for 33 years but nothing could prepare him for what he saw in the aftermath of a Hamas attack in southern Israel which killed at least 1,300 people.
DIPLOMACY AND PROTESTS
* Biden will pose “tough questions” and seek a sense of Israel’s plans and objectives in the days and weeks ahead in meetings with Netanyahu, the Israeli war cabinet and other Israeli leaders.
* “He’ll be asking some tough questions, he’ll be asking them as a friend, as a true friend of Israel, but he’ll be asking some questions of them,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Air Force One during the flight to Tel Aviv.
* Jordan cancelled a summit it was to host in Amman on Wednesday with Biden and the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders to discuss Gaza, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said.
* The hospital blast drew condemnation across the Arab world, and protests were staged at Israel’s embassies in Turkey and Jordan and near the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, where security forces fired tear gas toward demonstrators.
* Palestinian security forces in Ramallah fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters throwing rocks and chanting against President Mahmoud Abbas as popular anger boiled over after the deadly Gaza hospital attack.
* Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group denounced what it said was Israel’s deadly attack on the Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza, which is run by the Anglican church, and called for “a day of unprecedented anger” against Israel and Biden’s visit.
* The United Nations Security Council will now vote on Wednesday on a Brazilian-drafted resolution that calls for humanitarian pauses in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip.
* The U.S. State Department will continue to offer government-sponsored charter flights to Europe from Tel Aviv to help Americans leave Israel through at least Sunday.
* The U.S. State Department raised its travel alert for Lebanon to “do not travel,” citing the security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah.
* Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cited a marked rise in antisemitism in Canada after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent deadly air strikes in Gaza.
(Compiled by Lincoln Feast; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Miral Fahmy)