White House says Biden's Arab summit in Jordan is cancelled

The development comes after a strike on a hospital in Gaza killed hundreds of people

US President Joe Biden is travelling to Israel to address growing global concerns about its war with Gaza. EPA
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US President Joe Biden’s Wednesday meeting in Amman with Arab leaders to discuss the escalating developments of the Israel-Gaza war has been cancelled, the White House has said.

It comes after a deadly strike on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which resulted in at least 500 deaths.

"I am outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted," Mr Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.

The summit, which was due to take place in the Jordanian capital after his stop in Israel, was to include Jordan's King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

"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 El Sisi of Egypt," a White House official said.

Mr Biden was expected to speak by phone with Mr Abbas and Mr Sisi while on his way back to the US.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Abbas announced that he would not attend the meeting in response to the Gaza hospital strike, for which Israel has denied responsibility.

"I spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and have directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened," Mr Biden said in his statement.

"The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy."

The development comes amid growing global concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and amid fears that the Israel-Hamas war could develop into a broader regional conflict.

Mr Biden is on his way to Israel where he is expected to repeat the US's unwavering support for Israel.

But cancellation of the stop in Jordan delivers a blow to his efforts to negotiate a humanitarian corridor that would enable the entry of aid to the Gaza Strip, and the departure of civilians, including Palestinian Americans who are trapped in the besieged enclave.

"He looks forward to consulting in person with these leaders soon, and agreed to remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days," the White House official said.

Israel cut off water, electricity, food and medicine after Hamas gunmen launched an attack on part of southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,300 people and taking scores of others hostage.

Israel responded by bombarding the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, with aerial attacks. More than 3,000 people have been killed.

Israel also ordered Palestinians to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip before a ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas.

The UN has condemned the move, saying that ordering the evacuation of 1.1 million civilians amounts to a breach in international law.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 3:28 AM