🔴 Live: Biden says ‘no higher priority’ than releasing hostages from Gaza

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US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that data shown to him by the US Department of Defense showed that Israel was not behind a deadly strike on a hospital in Gaza. Biden landed in Israel early on Wednesday and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


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3:52pm: Biden says he asked Netanyahu “tough questions” during meeting

US President Joe Biden said he asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “tough questions” during their meeting on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, where they also discussed humanitarian needs, security assistance and information on unaccounted Americans.

“I asked tough questions as a friend of Israel. We will continue to deter any actor wanting to widen this conflict.” Biden said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

3:27pm: Drone attack on US troops intercepted in Iraq, heightening fears of a regional conflagration

Two suicide drones launched at a base hosting US troops in Iraq were intercepted Wednesday, a defense official said.

Hours later, an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq announced it had launched another drone attack on a second base. No injuries were reported in either incident.

No group claimed responsibility for the first drone attack Wednesday. Tashkil al-Waritheen, another Iranian-backed militia, claimed responsibility in a statement for a second drone attack, which they said had targeted the al-Harir airbase in northern Iraq. US officials did not immediately comment on the claim of a second attack.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have threatened to attack US facilities over American support for Israel.

Following Tuesday night’s blast that killed hundreds at a hospital in Gaza, the the Kataib Hezbollah militia issued a statement in which it blamed the US and its support for Israel for the catastrophe and called for an end to the US presence in Iraq. “These evil people must leave the country. Otherwise, they will taste the fire of hell in this world before the afterlife,” the statement said.

3:25pm: Hundreds protest in West Bank after Gaza hospital strike

Palestinian protesters took to the streets in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, blaming Israel for a strike on a hospital in war-torn Gaza that killed hundreds.

Hundreds of protesters in Nablus, many draped in Palestinian flags and some holding Hamas banners, chanted slogans against Israel and its ally the United States. “Free, free Palestine,” they chanted.

Others derided Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is Hamas’s rival and has been criticised by Palestinians over its collaboration with Israel. “Down, down with Abbas,” they shouted.

An AFP correspondent in Nablus said Palestinian security forces fired tear gas at protesters as they marched out of the city centre.

Palestinians attend a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on October 18, 2023.
Palestinians attend a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on October 18, 2023. © Hazem Bader, AFP

3:19pm: Germany’s Scholz vows action after Molotovs thrown at Berlin synagogue

Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to fight anti-Semitism on German soil after attackers hurled two Molotov cocktails at a Jewish synagogue in Berlin early Wednesday.

Police in the German capital said they were probing the attack in the Mitte district of the city. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The attack, at around 3:45am, comes amid a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the wake of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“Attacks against Jewish institutions, violent riots on our streets – this is inhumane, disgusting and cannot be tolerated,” said Scholz on a trip to Egypt. “Anti-Semitism has no place in Germany. My thanks go to the security forces, especially in this situation.”

3:15pm: Death toll of French citizens killed in attacks in Israel rises to 24

The number of French citizens killed in the attacks by Hamas in Israel has risen to 24, said French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Paris has repatriated 3,500 French citizens from Israel since the attacks on October 7, the prime minister added.

3:08pm: Biden says hospital explosion comment based on data from US Defense Department

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his comment that the “other team,” not Israel, was responsible for the explosion at a Gaza hospital was based on data shown to him by the US Department of Defense.

Asked by reporters in Tel Aviv what made him sure that Israel was not responsible for the strike that killed hundreds on Tuesday, Biden replied, “the data I was shown by my defense department”.

Earlier on Wednesday Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting that he did not believe Israel was responsible for the deadly explosion at Ahli Arab hospital.

Israel has blamed the rocket strike on Palestinian militants.

3:07pm: Turkey to declare three days of mourning over Gaza hospital strike

Turkey will declare three days’ mourning over a deadly strike on a hospital in war-torn Gaza that killed hundreds, a Turkish official told AFP on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause, has accused Israel of “striking a hospital sheltering women, children and innocent civilians” and urged the world to stop the tragedy in Gaza. 

“Turkey will declare three days national mourning,” the official, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP. 

Israel has said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame.

2:59pm: Egypt will not allow influx of refugees from Gaza, president says

Egypt‘s president said Wednesday he would not allow any mass influx of refugees from Gaza, saying it would set a precedent for “the displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan“.

“The displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt means the same displacement will take place for Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan,” said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“Subsequently, the Palestinian state that we are talking about and that the world is talking about will become impossible to implement – because the land is there, but the people are not.”

2:54pm: Israeli military says responding to shots fired along Lebanon border

Israel‘s military said it was responding to shots fired at its military posts in the area of Zar’it along the Lebanon border on Wednesday.

2:13pm: US issues Hamas-related sanctions 

The United States on Wednesday issued terrorism-related sanctions, targeting nine individuals and one entity linked to Hamas, according to a notice posted on the US Department of Treasury’s website.

2:11pm: At least 7 British nationals have been killed since Hamas attack

At least seven British nationals have been killed and at least nine are missing since Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday.

“I can sadly confirm that at least seven British nationals have been tragically killed,” the spokesperson told reporters.

“A further nine British nationals are missing, some of whom are feared to be among the dead.”

2:11pm: Gaza health ministry spokesman says 471 Palestinians killed at Gaza hospital

Gaza healthy ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qidra said in a statement on Wednesday that 471 Palestinians were killed and more than 314 wounded in what he called an “Israeli massacre”, at the Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials have blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast at the hospital on Tuesday. Israel has said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame.

1:55pm: Gaza death toll rises to 3,478, says Hamas health ministry

At least 3,478 Palestinians were killed and 12,000 wounded in Gaza in Israeli strikes since October 7, the Palestinian health ministry said on Wednesday in a statement.

1:32pm: Biden pledges solidarity with Israelis and suggests ‘other team’ to blame for Gaza hospital blast

President Joe Biden vowed to show the world that the US stands in solidarity with Israelis during his visit there Wednesday, and offered an assessment that the deadly explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital 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.

Biden didn’t offer details on why he believed the Israelis were not responsible for the blast, and the White House did not immediately explain his assessment. 

“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. 

1:23pm: Biden says will work with Israel to spare civilians

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States would work with Israel to prevent civilian deaths as it pounds Gaza, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to make efforts.

“We will continue to have your back. As you work to defend your people, we will continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians,” Biden said after meeting Netanyahu’s war cabinet in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu renewed charges that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and launched a deadly assault inside Israel on October 7, deliberately puts civilians near targets in the hope of using them as shields. 

But Netanyahu told Biden: “As we proceed in this war, Israel will do everything it can to keep civilians out of harm’s way. 

“We have asked them and we’ll continue to ask them to move to safer areas. We will continue to work with you, Mr. President, to assure that the minimum requirements are met,” Netanyahu said.

12:27pm: US and Western countries that support Israel hold full responsibility for the war, says Hamas representative in Lebanon

Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, said on Wednesday during a press conference that the US and all Western countries that support Israel “hold full responsibility for the war against civilians in Gaza”.

12:14pm: Putin calls Gaza hospital strike a ‘tragedy’

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said a strike on a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds was a “tragedy” and showed the need to bring the conflict between Israel and Hamas to an end.

“This is a terrible event … I really hope that this will be a signal that this conflict needs to end as soon as possible,” Putin said at a televised press conference on the sidelines of a summit in Beijing.

11:40am: Palestinian health minister in Ramallah says more than 3,300 Palestinians killed since October 7

At least 3,300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 wounded since Israel began air strikes on the Gaza Strip on October 7, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said on Wednesday.

11:39am: Iran calls for Islamic countries to sanction Israel

Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should sanction and implement an oil embargo on Israel, in addition to expelling Israeli ambassadors, the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Wednesday according to a statement shared by Iran’s foreign ministry.

An urgent meeting of the OIC was taking place on Wednesday in the Saudi city of Jeddah for Islamic countries to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

10:12am: Biden arrives on solidarity visit to Israel

US President Joe Biden landed in Israel Wednesday on a solidarity visit following Hamas attacks, under the shadow of a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that has inflamed regional tensions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed Biden on the tarmac, putting his arms around the US president who then clasped his hands around Netanyahu in a sign of the newfound bond between the two leaders.

Under unusually tight security even for the US president, Biden and Netanyahu chatted briefly on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport surrounded by their guards before their motorcades set off for a Tel Aviv hotel where they will hold talks.

Hundreds of armed police and troops were stationed around the seafront Tel Aviv hotel where Netanyahu and Biden will meet, with armed snipers on the roofs of nearby villas.

10:05am: Gaza aid stuck in Egypt as Cairo blames Israel

Truckloads of aid bound for the war-torn Gaza Strip remained on the Egyptian side of the border Wednesday, as Egypt blamed Israel for not allowing it to reach desperate civilians.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry rejected as “inaccurate” claims that Egypt had kept the only border crossing with Gaza not controlled by Israel closed.

“As far as we’re concerned, the Rafah crossing on our side is officially open,” Shoukry told the BBC on Tuesday.

He said aid lorries were awaiting guarantees of “safe conditions” after the crossing was “subjected to four aerial bombardments that have made the crossing inaccessible”.

In a separate interview with CNN, Shoukry said one of the strikes came as “we were trying to repair damage, and four Egyptian workers were injured”.

Gaza has nearly run out of electricity, food, water and fuel, after 12 days of siege and air and artillery bombardment by Israel. FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Cairo, Egypt, Eduard Cousin said in Eygpt, “they want to allow aid to go into Gaza, but they don’t want [to let] a large number of Palestinian refugees into Egypt”. 

9:51am: Israel says has ‘evidence’ militants to blame for Gaza hospital blast

The Israeli army said Wednesday it had “evidence” that militants were responsible for the blast that killed hundreds at a Gaza hospital, saying a review proved others were at fault. 

“The evidence – which we are sharing with you all – confirms that the explosion at the hospital in Gaza was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket that misfired,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari told a press conference in Tel Aviv.

The comments came after an explosion at a Gaza hospital compound on Tuesday evening killed at least 200 people, according to health officials in the enclave, sparking protests across the Middle East and wide-ranging condemnation.

“There was no IDF (Israeli army) fire by land, sea or air that hit the hospital,” Hagari said. 

“Our radar system tracked missiles fired by terrorists in Gaza at the time of the explosion and the trajectory analysis of the rockets shows the rockets were fired in close proximity to the hospital.” 

Following the blast, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the territory, pinned the blame on Israel.  

9:27am: Blinken calls Abbas to offer condolences for hospital deaths

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to offer condolences over a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital and voice support for Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations”, the State Department said Wednesday.

Blinken, who was in Amman on a regional tour, spoke late Tuesday by telephone with Abbas “to express profound condolences for the civilian lives lost in the explosion” at the Ahli Arab Hospital, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

9:25am: Situation in Gaza ‘spiralling out of control’, says WHO chief

The situation in the Gaza Strip is spiralling out of control, the head of the UN health agency warned on Wednesday, following a blast at a hospital that killed hundreds of people.

“The situation in #Gaza is spiralling out of control,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly Twitter. “We need violence on all sides to stop.”

“Every second we wait to get medical aid in, we lose lives,” he added. “We need immediate access to start delivering life-saving supplies.”

9:00am: Scholz ‘horrified’ by Gaza hospital strike, urges ‘thorough’ probe

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday called for a comprehensive investigation of a strike on a Gaza hospital compound which health officials in the impoverished enclave said killed at least 200 people.

“I am horrified by the images of the explosion in a hospital in Gaza. Innocent civilians were injured and killed,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “A thorough investigation of the incident is imperative.”

8:59am: Fury in Beirut as Gaza hospital blast kills hundreds

“The atmosphere in Beirut is very tense, especially after what happend at the hospital in Gaza,” said FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Beirut, Rawad Taha. “Overnight we saw a number of protests targeting the US Embassy, the UNS headquarters, […] the French Embassy, all condeming what has been happening in Gaza”. 

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Tuesday called for a “day of rage” to condemn the strike and specifically, for a “protest that should take place this afternoon at 2pm, in Beirut’s southern suburb in Dahiya, where Hezbollah’s headquarters are”.  

8:38am: Biden will be plunging into Middle East turmoil on his visit to Israel

US President Joe Biden will touch down in Israel on Wednesday in a diplomatic scramble to prevent the war with Hamas from spiraling into an even larger conflict, a challenge that became more difficult as outrage swept through the Middle East over an explosion that killed hundreds in a Gaza Strip hospital. 

Biden was originally scheduled to visit Jordan as well, but his meetings with Arab leaders were called off as he was leaving Washington, costing him an opportunity for the face-to-face conversations that he views as crucial for navigating this fraught moment. 

With his trip cut short, Biden will now meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet, first responders, victims’ and hostages’ families as well as President Isaac Herzog. 

8:09am: In Gaza, ‘nowhere is safe’ 

“The Ahli hospital in Gaza City was sheltering thousands of people,” said FRANCE 24’s Andrew Hilliar, reporting from Deir Hanna in northern Israel. “The reality is that in Gaza, especially in the northern part of the territory – nowhere is safe for people and there could still be many more bodies under the rubble.”


7:39am: Russia says Israel should provide evidence it didn’t strike Gaza hospital

Russia‘s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that a strike on a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinians was a shocking crime, adding that Israel should provide satellite images to prove that it was not involved in the attack.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Radio Sputnik that the attack was a shocking “dehumanising” crime.

7:14am: Rescuers still pulling bodies from the rubble of Gaza hospital

Al Jazeera carried footage showing a frantic scene as rescue workers scoured blood-stained debris for survivors. Rescuers and civilians were shown carrying away at least four victims in body bags. A Gaza civil defence chief gave a death toll of 300, while health ministry sources put it at 500.

5:50am: Guterres says Hamas attacks do not justify ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinians

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas did not justify the “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.

The Hamas attacks on October 7 “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, Guterres told delegates at a forum of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in Beijing.

He also called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

“I call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to … ease the epic human suffering we are witnessing,” Guterres said at the same event.

5:45am: US issues ‘do not travel’ advisory for Lebanon

The US State Department on Tuesday 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.

The State Department authorised the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of US government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy in Beirut because of the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon.

For tens of thousands of families in Gaza, hospitals became a refuge from seemingly endless Israeli shelling. Then came the strike Tuesday night on Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza, which the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory said killed at least 500 people.

Residents who have been told to flee the north of the Palestinian territory had packed the courtyards and corridors of the territory’s overwhelmed hospitals in the belief they were a safe haven from the Israeli bombardments. Read more here.

3:41am: Hundreds protest in Libya over hospital air strike

Several hundred people protested in Tripoli and other Libyan cities late Tuesday over the deadly strike on a Gaza hospital, according to AFP journalists.

In Tripoli, hundreds of demonstrators of all ages, brandishing Palestinian flags and some covering their faces with Palestinian keffiyehs, crisscrossed the streets of the city centre before converging on Martyrs’ Square.

They chanted slogans of support for the residents of Gaza and denounced the strike by the “Zionist enemy”. “We give our blood and our souls for Gaza,” they chanted in Tripoli and similarly in Misrata, a city 200 kilometres west of the capital.

3:03am: Biden heads to Middle East despite cancelled summit with Arab leaders

Joe Biden will be traveling to Israel as he is expected to express support for the country as well as negotiate humanitarian aid for Gaza. FRANCE 24’s Fraser Jackson has the latest from Washington.

1:38am: Islamic Jihad denies Israeli accusations, calling them ‘lies’

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad on Wednesday described as “lies” the Israel army’s accusations that it was responsible for a strike on a Gaza hospital that left hundreds dead.

“The Zionist enemy is trying hard to evade its responsibility for the brutal massacre he committed by bombing the Baptist Arab National Hospital in Gaza through his usual fabrication of lies, and through pointing the finger of blame at the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine,” it said in a statement.

“We therefore affirm that the accusations put forward by the enemy are false and baseless,” it added.

1:18am: Biden ‘outraged’, calls on national security team to determine what happened

US President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was “outraged and deeply saddened” by a deadly explosion on a Gaza hospital, for which Hamas and Israel have traded blame.

Biden had “directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened”, he added in a statement

1:13am: UN chief ‘horrified’ by Gaza air strike

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “horrified” by the deadly strike on a hospital in Gaza that left at least 200 people dead, he said in a social media post Tuesday.

“My heart is with the families of the victims. Hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law,” Guterres said in the message on X, formerly Twitter.

12:55am: Angry protests in front of French, British embassies in Tehran

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the British and French embassies in Tehran in the early hours of Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said, as regional anger grows over a deadly strike on a Gaza hospital.

“Death to France and England,” protesters shouted, throwing eggs at the walls of the French embassy compound in the Iranian capital.

12:07am: Biden summit with Arab leaders canceled after Gaza air strike

US President Joe Biden has postponed his visit to Jordan after a deadly strike on a Gaza hospital and will only go to Israel on his Middle East trip, the White House said Tuesday.

Biden decided after “consulting” with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and “in light of the days of mourning” announced by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who was due at the summit along with Egypt‘s president, the White House said in a statement.

“The president sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza, and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded,” the statement added.

12:03am: France’s Macron says ‘nothing can justify’ targeting civilians

French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing can justify targeting civilians” after a deadly strike on a Gaza hospital and called for humanitarian access to the coastal strip “without delay”.

“Nothing can justify a strike against a hospital. Nothing can justify targeting civilians. France condemns the attack on the Al-Ahli Arabi hospital in Gaza which caused so many Palestinian victims. We think of them,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip must be opened without delay.”

Key developments from Tuesday, October 17:

An air strike on the Ahli hospital in Gaza City has left at least 500 people dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The Israeli Defence Forces have denied it was their rockets, blaming the Islamic Jihad instead. The United Nations, the African Union, and France have all condemned the air strike.

Read our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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