Not long after President Joe Biden departed Tel Aviv in Air Force One on Friday, becoming the first American president to fly straight from the Jewish state to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom opened its airspace to Israeli air traffic, the Israeli military began pounding Gaza.
“Hours after President Joe Biden ended a three-day visit to the region, Israel’s military said Saturday that it had attacked what it said was a Hamas military site in the Gaza Strip in response to a pair of rocket attacks,” NBC reports.
“In response to the attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli territory, the IDF is continuing to target Hamas weapons manufacturing sites in the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
Specifically the IDF said it targeted a Hamas rocket production facility located underground. This in response to Hamas rockets said to have been launched at around 1am.
“The site targeted was one of the largest and most important sites in the Strip for the production of base materials for rockets by terror groups,” the IDF added. An additional two rockets were later reported fired from Gaza toward an Israeli settlement just northeast of the Strip, however they landed in open areas without injuring anyone.
The timing of the Hamas rockets suggests the group is trying to send its own message related to Biden’s Mideast presence; however, it’s the Hamas side accusing Israel of using Biden’s visit as ‘cover’ to launch fresh airstrikes, according to Al Jazeera:
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was no coincidence that the Israeli raids took place right after Biden’s visit to Israel.
“This escalation, which came immediately after US President Biden’s visit to the Zionist entity, reflects the amount of American support and encouragement that the Israeli occupation has received for the continuation of its aggression and the perpetration of its crimes,” he said in a statement.
Biden had spent two days in Israel, where he met with both Israel and Palestinian leadership, before a one-day visit to Saudi Arabia where he met with King Salman and controversially with crown prince MbS. Biden held a brief, solo press conference wherein he said that bin Salman told himhe wasn’t responsible for the 2018 murder of WaPo columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it. I indicated I thought he was,” said Biden. “What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,” he added. Biden previously dodged press questions over whether he would bring up Khashoggi – instead painting a broad brush stroke of concern over Saudi Arabia’s “human rights” issues.
As for the prior Thursday meetings with Palestinian leadership under PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Biden endorsed a ‘two state’ solution but also said the “ground isn’t ripe” for serious talks at this point:
“Even if the ground is not ripe at this moment to restart negotiations, the United States and my administration will not give up on bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis, both sides, closer together,” Biden said during a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
And as the AP reports, “Biden offered more than $300 million for the Palestinians on Friday, including $201 million for a United Nations agency that helps refugees and a proposed $100 million for hospitals. The health care funding requires congressional approval.”
By and large he stuck to the prior Trump administration’s position on the conflict, rejecting Palestinian calls to make East Jerusalem the capital of a State of Palestine.