US President Joe Biden’s wartime trip to Israel and Jordan faltered before it got off the ground Tuesday, after the Amman leg was canceled following a strike on a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of people.
The trip was always set to be the riskiest of Biden’s presidency as he tried to juggle support for Israel after the October 7 Hamas attacks with efforts to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza and to avert a wider war.
But his regional balancing act came undone on the eve of his visit with news of the hospital explosion — for which Hamas blamed Israeli strikes, while Israel said it was caused by a rocket misfired by militants in Gaza.
As Biden, 80, climbed the steps of Air Force One, Jordan announced that a planned four-way summit with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was off.
It would be held “when the decision to stop the war and put an end to these massacres has been taken,” said Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
Biden later said he was “outraged” by the “explosion” at the hospital and had told his national security team to get more information on what had happened.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby however told reporters aboard the presidential plane said that the Israelis “feel very strongly this was not caused by them.”
He added that it was a “mutual decision” to cancel the Jordan trip after Abbas said he wanted to return home for three days of mourning, and that Biden would speak to him and Sisi by phone on the plane home.
Yet Biden will now be flying into an even more volatile situation than before, with the hospital strike sparking anger across the region.
Furious protesters tried to storm the Israeli embassy in Amman where Biden was due to meet the other leaders, while in Tehran hundreds rallied outside the French and British embassies.
With inputs from NDTV