Update(1535ET): The big controversy out of the UN Security Council on Wednesday is that the US vetoed a draft resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza, as Israeli airstrikes continue and ground forces are reportedly still staging for an invasion.
The draft resolution was proposed by Brazil and condemned "the terrorist attacks by Hamas," urged the release of hostages, while calling for a "humanitarian pause" or ceasefire. 12 members approved the draft Wednesday, the UK and Russia abstained, but the United States shot it down.
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she wanted US diplomacy to "play out" first, but also criticized the resolution text for not expressly upholding Israel's right to self defense. Thomas-Greenfield slammed this aspect, saying in her explanation before the council:
"Colleagues, the United States is disappointed this resolution made no mention of Israel’s right of self-defense. Like every nation in the world, Israel has the inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Following previous terrorist attacks by groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS, this Council reaffirmed that right. This text should have done the same."
In Tel Aviv, Biden was asked in follow-up to his speech earlier in the day why he is backing Israel's denial of being behind the hospital bombing. Biden responded that it was due to "the data I was shown by my Defense Department." And the White House national security spokesperson additionally issued the following statement:
While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday.— Adrienne Watson (@NSC_Spox) October 18, 2023
Bloomberg, meanwhile at the conclusion of Biden's time in Tel Aviv issued the headline, Biden Fails to Calm Fears of Wider War in 7.5-Hour Visit
Now that Biden is flying out of Israel, that "imminent" ground invasion might take place after all. All eyes will also be on the northern border to see what Hezbollah does (and by extension Iran) in response.
The Israeli War Cabinet reportedly told U.S. President Biden today during a Meeting that they have now completed their preparations for an Invasion of the Gaza Strip and that a Ground Operation is now “Imminent.”— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) October 18, 2023
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At a moment the whole region threatens to erupt, and as mass protests have continued across Arab capitals and in many other parts of the world, President Joe Biden arrived in Israel Wednesday pledging unwavering US support for Israel.
Breaking from other allies like France's Macron (and some Europeans), who appeared to condemn Israel for the deadly al-Ahli Baptist Hospital bombing, Biden instead during his first meeting with Netanyahu since the crisis began sided with Israel's narrative of events. "Based on what I have seen, it was done by the other team, not you," Biden said.
"But there’s a lot of people out there who are not sure. So we’ve got to overcome a lot of things," he added. The Israelis had the day prior emphasized they had shared their case, including intelligence they say they possess, with the Americans as Biden was en route in Air Force One to Tel Aviv.
Likely Biden's comments were enough for now to satisfy the Israelis, who are under growing international pressure given the massive death toll of at least 200-300 Gazans at the hospital, many of them women and children; however, the "other team" reference is somewhat awkward a response - as it doesn't directly name Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or Hamas.
Later in the day, in a meeting with Netanyahu which also included members of his war cabinet in Tel Aviv, Biden as expected pledged that "We will continue to have Israel's back as you work to defend your people."
"We’ll continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians," said, and described the Oct.7 Hamas cross-border raid as "brutal, inhuman, almost beyond belief."
BIDEN: "I asked the secretary of state when he and I were working in the Senate to write something for me and he said he wrote a line that I think is appropriate. He said, 'It's not we lead, it's not just...' Well, I won't go into it, I'll wait 'til later, taking too much time."
Biden is collapsing in this Israel meeting. He can’t even stay awake— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) October 18, 2023
This is hard to watch
Its no wonder everyone is taking advantage of him pic.twitter.com/Jco3siuO57
Netanyahu then spoke of "this terrible, double-war crime against humanity" — in reference Israel's claims that Gaza's militant factions killed the hundreds of Palestinians at the hospital. Israel's version of events is that an errant missile fired by the PIJ faction struck the hospital.
"While Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties, Hamas seeks to maximize civilian casualties," Netanyahu said. "Hamas wants to kill as many Israelis as possible and has no regard whatsoever to Palestinian lives – every day they perpetrate a double war crime, targeting our civilians while hiding behind their civilians, embedding themselves in the civilian population and using them as human shields."
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released what it says is evidence, in the form of intercepted communications, that it wasn't Israel behind the attack:
Islamic Jihad struck a Hospital in Gaza—the IDF did not.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 18, 2023
Listen to the terrorists as they realize this themselves: pic.twitter.com/u7WyU8Rxwz
"We saw the cost of this terrible war crime yesterday, when a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists misfired and landed on a Palestinian hospital," Netanayahu continued in his meeting with Biden. "The entire world was rightfully outraged – but this outrage should be directed not at Israel, but at the terrorists. As we proceed in this war, Israel will do everything it can to keep civilians out of harm's way."
Netanyahu further said "the civilized world must unite to defeat Hamas" and that "we will defeat Hamas and remove this terrible threat from our lives."
After Arab leaders, including King Abdullah and Egypt's Sisi, canceled planned meetings with Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - who had also refused to meet with Biden. A readout said Blinken called "to express profound condolences for the civilian lives lost in the explosion at the Al-Ahli Anglican hospital in Gaza City."
"The Secretary expressed continuing U.S. support for the Palestinian people, stressing that Hamas terrorists do not represent Palestinians or their legitimate aspirations for self-determination and equal measures of dignity, freedom, security, and justice," the readout published Wednesday said.
As for the hospital massacre, it remains that no foreign investigators or even for the most part foreign journalists have access to the site at this point. Some mainstream media reports in the West have highlighted this fact...
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz while in Egypt meeting with Sisi has called for a "thorough investigation" into the attack, saying "we still do not know exactly what happened." Anger continues to explode on the Arab street, after overnight fires were reported at the entrance of the US Embassy complex in Beirut.