Calls for Gaza ceasefire mount after Israel bombs hospital – Mondoweiss



Gaza: 3,478 killed, 12,000 wounded
West Bank: 62 killed, 1,250 injured
Israel: 1,403 killed, 3,800 injured

Key Developments:

  • UN officials, 22 Arab countries, U.S. congressional representatives join mounting calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Israel bombs Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, sparking international outrage.
  • Palestinian Health Ministry: 471 killed in hospital bombing, 314 wounded, including 28 in critical condition.
  • Israel denies hospital bombing, pointing to Palestinian groups instead. Journalists point to now-deleted video “evidence” provided by army that countered the army’s own claims.
  • Al-Ahli hospital officials say the Israeli army dropped “roof knocking” missiles on the hospital days prior, and called hospital officials the days before the bombing, saying “we warned you to evacuate twice.”
  • U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Israel, meets with Netanyahu and casts doubt on Israeli bombing of hospital, saying, “It appears that it was done by the other team.”
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s President Abdelfattah al-Sisi continue to push back on question of accepting Gaza refugees, say it is “red line.”
  • Israel renews orders for Gazans to move to southern Gaza. Israel has been bombing southern Gaza for days, including Rafah and Khan Younis, where tens of thousands have sought shelter from northern Gaza.
  • Wafa news: 55 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on Wednesday morning, including 12 people killed in Khan Younis in an airstrike on a residential building.
  • Israeli army tells Gazans to go south where aid “will be provided as needed,” does not clarify how aid will be let into the Strip, which has been under “total siege” since October 7.

Mounting pressure for immediate ceasefire

Calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza are mounting, in the wake of a devastating Israeli hospital bombing on the night of Tuesday, October 17, which Gaza health officials have described as a “massacre.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire on Wednesday morning, October 18, as he condemned the “collective punishment” of Palestinians. 

Along with calls for a ceasefire, Guterres called for the immediate entrance of emergency humanitarian aid into Gaza, which has been prevented by Israel for more than a week, despite numerous warnings from UN and human rights agencies that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic due to lack of food, water, and power. 

Guterres also called for the immediate and “unconditional” release of Israeli and foreign-national captives being held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. According to reports, Hamas allegedly offered on Tuesday night to release all civilian captives in Gaza, both Israel and foreign nationals, in exchange for an immediate halt of Israel’s air offensives.

Guterres’s calls for a ceasefire are part of a growing chorus of American and international officials and leaders. 

Twenty-two Arab countries at the United Nations also joined demands for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday. Palestine UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Arab states were “outraged by this massacre,” referring to the hospital bombing. Mansour also added that Arab states were “united” in their calls for immediate delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and their rejection of the “forcible displacement” of Palestinians in Gaza. 

On Tuesday, October 17, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Tlaleng Mofokeng, urged an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access to Gaza, saying, “All parties to the conflict and their international partners must ensure swift and unimpeded access to essential humanitarian supplies, including food, water and medicine, fuel, and electricity.” 

Mofokeng added that Gaza’s medical infrastructure has been “irreparably damaged,” and that the healthcare sector is at a “breaking point” as the Strip continues to face constant bombardment, but no entry of emergency aid. 

Earlier this week, a group of Democratic House members introduced a resolution calling on the Biden administration to push for an immediate ceasefire, and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, and National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi on October 18, 2023. (Photo: Haim Zah, GPO)
U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, and National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi on October 18, 2023. (Photo: Haim Zah, GPO)

Biden visits Netanyahu after hospital bombing, reaffirms support

U.S. President Joe Biden arrived on a visit to Israel on Wednesday, just hours after the bombing of a Palestinian hospital in Gaza that sparked local, regional, and international outrage.

Biden released a statement shortly after the bombing, saying he was “outraged and deeply saddened” by what he said was an “explosion” at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. He added that he was instructing his national security team to “continue gathering information about what exactly happened.”

But by Wednesday morning, as Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, it seemed the American President had already made up his mind, saying, “It appears that it was done by the other team, not you. But some people are not sure.”

Biden’s statements were in line with the official Israeli government and military narrative, which is that a misfired rocket from Palestinian factions in Gaza caused the hospital bombing. The Israeli army has so far failed to provide concrete evidence of its claims. 

Israel initially claimed to have video proof of the misfire, publishing a video to its social media purporting to show evidence that a PIJ rocket caused the bombing. But the post was later deleted after journalists noted that the timestamps on the video did not match the publicly known details of the event. 

As the day went on on Wednesday, the official U.S. line was becoming clear: despite the horrible atrocities that happened just mere hours before, the Biden administration was still offering unwavering support to Israel, opting to support Israel’s continued military bombardment on Gaza over advocating for de-escalation and a ceasefire.  

Any speculation that the hospital bombing might have changed the tone of America and the Biden administration, which has been unequivocal in its support for Israel since October 7, was quickly put to bed on Wednesday when Biden went on to meet with Israel emergency war cabinet. 

At the cabinet meeting, Biden said the United States “will continue to have Israel’s back as you work to defend your people,” and told Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, “you are not alone.”

“We will continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy for innocent civilians,” Biden said, once again shifting attention to Hamas, saying, “in the wake of Hamas’s appalling, terrorist assault, brutal, inhumane – almost beyond belief what they did – this cabinet came together and is standing strong, standing united. And I want you to know you are not alone. You are not alone.”

Biden also went on to say the U.S. stands with Israel in its “defense of that freedom, in pursuit of that justice, and in support of that peace, today, tomorrow, and always, we promise you.” Biden was initially supposed to travel to Jordan after the Israel trip to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza, but the Jordan leg of the trip was canceled, reportedly by King Abdullah II, after the bombing of the hospital. 

“After consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt,” a White House official said in a statement. 

According to available information in press reports, Biden did not seem to pressure Israel on, or even mention, the opening of border crossings to allow the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

Protests over hospital bombing erupt in West Bank, Middle East

Protests over Israel’s bombing of a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night have erupted across the region, with protests continuing from Tuesday night into Wednesday.

Massive demonstrations have been reported in Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Yemen and Turkey. Thousands of protesters in Turkey and Jordan demonstrated outside the Israeli missions and embassies in those countries, with protesters in Jordan attempting to storm the Israeli embassy both on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Hundreds of Jordanian protesters also gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Amman on Wednesday, with protesters chanting in support of Palestinian liberation. According to Al Jazeera, protesters were also demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Jordan and the revocation of existing peace treaties between Jordan and Israel. 

In the occupied West Bank, a general strike and three days of mourning across the territory was announced Tuesday night after the hospital bombing. Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah, Jenin, Bethlehem Hebron, Tulkarem, and Nablus. In Ramallah, the central hub of the Palestinian Authority, protesters demonstrated in the heart of the city on Tuesday night, chanting against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, calling for the overthrow of Abbas and his government. Other protesters decried their government as “collaborators.” 

PA Security Forces (PASF) suppressed protesters with tear gas and stun grenades, with some eyewitness reports saying PA forces fired live ammunition at the protesters, who threw stones at the PA forces. In the northern West Bank city of Jenin, video footage showed PA forces firing live ammunition at protesters, with several injuries reported. 

Protests did not stop on Wednesday, with more demonstrations reported in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, Tulkarem, and Jerusalem. In Hebron, videos showed protesters calling for the downfall of President Mahmoud Abbas. In Nablus, PASF suppressed protests, sparking confrontations with protesters, including armed confrontations, according to some reports. 

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