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Peace and Conflict

Biden pledges continued support on Israel visit | Update 19th October 2023

Biden pledges continued support on Israel visit via BICom

Biden visit: The US president flew to Israel yesterday, in a further show of support for Israel and its right to respond to Hamas’s brutal attacks of 7th October.

  • Speaking alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Biden spoke powerfully of the plight of the families of the at least 199 Israeli hostages held in Gaza, and of the redolence of the brutal Hamas attacks with the Holocaust.
  • “You’re not alone,” he told Israelis. “For as long as the United States stands, and we will stand forever, we will not let you ever be alone.”
  • Biden confirmed that he would be seeking Congressional approval for an unprecedentedly large package of US aid. “We are going to keep Iron Dome fully supplied so it can continue standing sentinel over Israeli skies, saving Israeli lives.” 
  • He also reiterated his firm warning to other regional state and non-state actors not to exploit Israel’s grief and Gazan focus by escalating their own attacks on Israel. “My message [to them] remains the same as it was a week ago. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” he said.
  • Biden also said that with “the Palestinian people… suffering greatly as well,” the humanitarian situation in Gaza must be addressed. “The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, shelter,” he said. “Today, I asked the Israeli cabinet… to agree to the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, based on the understanding that there will be inspections, and that the aid should go to civilians, not to Hamas.”
  • Rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, which has continued consistently since October 7th, was restricted to border areas for the duration of Biden’s visit. Once the president left, however, central Israel was once more subject to a barrage of rockets. In the last two weeks over 7000 rockets have fired towards Israel.

Hospital blast: Biden backed the Israeli evidence that the blast had been caused not by an IDF bomb but by a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket. 

  • Biden said “based on the information we have seen to date, it appears as a result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza”.
  • Footage from a fixed Channel 12 camera overlooking the Gaza Strip showed no incoming missiles from the IDF at the time, but did show launches emanating from inside Gaza.
  • The IDF released aerial footage also showing rockets launched with the hospital under their flightpath.
  • The IDF revealed that a total of 450 rockets have misfired and landed inside Gaza.
  • Independent OSINT experts have also analysed the footage and confirmed that the damage is inconsistent with IDF ordinances.   

In Gaza: The IDF has confirmed that it has killed Rafat Abu Hilal, head of the military wing of Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees terror group, a faction separate to both Hamas and PIJ.

  • Ten members of the Hamas Nukbah force, which carried out the October 7th attacks, have also been killed in the last day, while the IDF also says it has destroyed various Hamas sites, including anti-tank missile launch sites, tunnel shafts, intelligence infrastructure, and command centres.

In the north: In the early hours of this morning, the IDF confirmed that it had struck Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, including a military observation post from which a guided anti-tank missile was fired toward the northern town of Rosh Hanikra on Wednesday.

Context: Biden is the first US president to visit Israel in wartime, and the first to attend an Israeli war cabinet.

  • Biden gave Israel full backing for its military operation. His Israeli interlocuters stressed that they will need time – weeks or even months – to defeat and dismantle Hamas’s terror network.
  • Biden’s strength in previously warning other regional actors – and in backing it with the despatching of two US aircraft carriers to the region – has been widely credited with contributing significantly to Hezbollah not seriously escalating attacks on Israel’s northern front.
  • There have been numerous attacks emanating from Lebanon, with Hezbollah firing at least sic anti-tank missiles, over 30 mortars and five cross border infiltrations. These have all focused on the immediate vicinity of the border area.  While Hamas leaders in Qatar have asked Iran to broaden the scope of their attacks and target Tel Aviv and Haifa, they are yet to do so.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu later confirmed that Israel had agreed to Biden’s request that aid be allowed into Gaza, and that Israel would not block the transfer of aid through Egypt’s Rafah Crossing.
  • In parallel to Biden’s visit, the US used its UN Security Council veto to block a Brazilian resolution calling for a ceasefire to allow aid to enter the Strip.
  • Israel and the US are also coordinating on the hostage issue and they called on the Red Cross to visit them, particularly due to concern that many of them may have suffered injuries when they were captured.    
  • Biden had been due to continue on to Amman from Israel, for further discussions with Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Arab leaders cancelled the meeting, however, in the wake of the Tuesday’s deadly blast at al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City.
  • The cancellation is perceived as a missed opportunity to gain Arab backing for the plans for Gaza the day after the military operation.

Looking ahead: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Israel this morning for a two-day visit.

  • He will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Herzog, and with representatives of the hostages’ families.
  • Touching down, he told Israelis, “I want you to know that the UK and I stand with you,” and that the UK condemned Hamas’s “unspeakable, horrific acts of terrorism.”
  • President Biden reached an understanding with President Sisi to allow 20 aid trucks in through the Rafah crossing.
  • They are expected to enter the Gaza Strip tomorrow through the Rafah crossing, with more expected to follow. Biden made clear that if Hamas commandeers the aid or prevented its entry, it would stop.

via BICom