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Iran’s foreign minister declared on Wednesday that ‘time is over’ for Israel, as Joe Biden was set to arrive in Tel Aviv to try and calm a rapidly-spiraling situation, with anti-Israel protests flaring up across the region. The foreign minister’s message echoes one posted by Iran’s embassy in Syria that tweeted ‘Time is Up’ in Hebrew.

It’s unclear what the messages referred to, but came after an air strike on a Gaza hospital on Tuesday killed at least 500 people, according to Palestinian authorities. The attack enraged people around the world. Israel and Palestinians both blame each other for the atrocity. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group based in Lebanon, called for ‘a day of unprecedented anger’ against Israel, while Libya’s foreign ministry accused the Jewish state of ‘war crimes and genocide.’ Demonstrators in Beirut briefly set the U.S. embassy on fire in anger at the killings, and in Jordan, dozens of protesters attempted to storm the Israeli embassy. Protests were also held outside the British and French embassies in Tehran.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (pictured), Iran’s foreign minister, arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday after the hospital bombing – a remarkable show of unity between two former sworn enemies. Saudi Arabia and Iran in March agreed on a Chinese-mediated détente and have moved toward reopening diplomatic missions in each other’s countries: Amir-Abdollahian visited Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in August. On Tuesday, Amir-Abdollahian, in Saudi for a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, issued a stark threat to Israel, blaming them for the hospital bombing. ‘After the terrible crime of the Zionist regime in the bombing and massacre of more than a thousand innocent women and children in the hospital, the time has come for the global unity of humanity against this fake regime more hated than ISIS and its killing machine,’ he tweeted. ‘Time is OVER.’ Iran’s embassy in Syria also tweeted, in Hebrew and Arabic: ‘Time is up.’

Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the attack, calling it a ‘heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces.’ The Biden administration has been pushing for so-called normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel as a policy priority in the region, but that looks to lie in tatters. ‘The regional dynamic is taking a sharp downward turn tonight & US policy crumbling into the sand,’ US analyst Charles Lister wrote on X. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has called for demonstrations at Israeli embassies around the world, and the embassies of Israel’s supporters. ‘Our message to our Arab and Islamic peoples and to the free people of the world: Everyone has the duty to participate in mass demonstrations, not to leave the streets, and to confront the occupation embassies and the countries that support it,’ a PIJ spokesperson said on social media. ‘This is the minimum, and it is a duty and there is no excuse for anyone who neglects it.’

Justin Bronk, a RUSI analyst, said that Iran’s threats, and the international revulsion sparked by the Gaza hospital attack, were deeply troubling in a region already on tenterhooks. Russia and China have been relatively restrained so far, he argued, but if Iran gets involved, then Russia might support it – and the war could include the US, if Iran or its proxies attack Israel over the coming weeks. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, said on Wednesday that Israel must provide satellite images to prove that it was not involved in the attack on the hospital. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, has traveled to Beijing. He repeated his call for humanitarian corridors, and said the October 7 attacks by Hamas ‘cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people’. ‘I call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to … ease the epic human suffering we are witnessing,’ he said.

Backing the Palestinian cause has been a pillar of the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution and a way the Shi’ite-dominated country has fashioned itself as a leader of the Muslim world. Tehran says it gives moral and financial support to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, but Western intelligence agencies do not believe that Tehran orchestrated the October 7 attack. Israel has been preparing for a potential ground invasion of Gaza in response to Hamas’ attacks on October 7, which killed 1,400 Israelis. Iran immediately blamed Israel for the Gaza hospital attack, with Nasser Kan’ani, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, calling it a ‘savage war crime’ and an instance of ‘genocide.’ Kan’ani accused Israel of carrying out a ‘bestial and appalling crime,’ adding, according to state-run Press TV: ‘The Zionist regime once again showed its ferocious and vicious nature to the entire people of the world.’

The al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City was hit at 7pm on Tuesday night. Palestinian officials say the horror explosion was caused by an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) air strike, while officials in the Jewish state insisted it was the result of a ‘failed’ rocket launched by terrorist group Islamic Jihad. However, the terror group has labeled the claims ‘completely incorrect’ and accused the IDF of ‘trying to cover for the horrifying crime and massacre they committed against civilians’. The blast threw a visit from US President Joe Biden to the region – in the hopes of showing support for Israel and preventing the war from spreading – into chaos. A planned meeting involving him, the president of Palestine , Mahmoud Abbas, and leaders from Egypt and Jordan, was cancelled by the Arab nations in protest. Washington is deeply concerned by Tehran’s statements and has told Iran to stay out of the war. The Pentagon has sent two US Navy carrier battlegroups to the Eastern Mediterranean to strengthen that deterrence message.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby (pictured) told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden ‘wants to get a sense from the Israelis on the situation on the ground’ and will ‘ask some tough questions’. ‘He’ll be asking them as a friend,’ Kirby said. The president also planned to meet Israeli first responders and the families of those killed and hostages taken when Hamas made its incursion into Israel. Roughly 2,800 Palestinians have been reported killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza. Another 1,200 people are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities said. Biden said in a statement that he was ‘outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted.’ He also said he ‘directed my national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened’.

Hellish video taken from the hospital, which was sheltering around 6,000 Palestinians and is funded by the Anglican Church, shows fire engulfing the building and the dozens of bodies strewn over the ground, many of them young children. Ambulances and private cars rushed some 350 casualties from the al-Ahli blast to Gaza City’s main hospital, al-Shifa, already overwhelmed with wounded from other strikes, said its director, Mohammed Abu Selmia. ‘We are squeezing five beds into a single tiny room. We need equipment, we need medicine, we need beds, we need everything,’ said Abu Selmia said, warning that the fuel supply for the hospital’s generators will run out on Wednesday. ‘I think Gaza’s medical sector will collapse within hours.’ In a press conference at al-Shifa doctors stood in a sea of dead children who had been brought from the stricken hospital, holding some of their faces to the cameras to show the horror that had befallen them.

In the immediate aftermath Hamas called the devastation a ‘horrific massacre’ and a ‘ crime of genocide’, laying blame at the feet of Israel. Izzat El-Reshiq, a senior Hamas member, said: ‘There are scores of dismembered and crushed bodies, baths of blood.’ The Israeli military blamed the explosion on Islamic Jihad, a smaller, more radical Palestinian militant group that often co-operates with Hamas in their shared struggle against Israel. The military, in a statement, said that a ‘barrage of rockets was fired by terrorists in Gaza, passing in close proximity to Ahli hospital in Gaza at the time it was hit’. An IDF spokesperson added: ‘Intelligence from multiple sources we have in our hands indicates that Islamic Jihad is responsible for the failed rocket launch which hit the hospital in Gaza.’

The Israeli army earlier on Tuesday said that a hospital is a ‘highly sensitive building’ and is ‘not an IDF target’, and urged ‘everyone to proceed with caution when reporting unverified claims of a terrorist organization’. This was backed up by Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow in airpower and technology at the Royal United Services Institute, who said video of the explosion did not match with the type of weapons Israel typically uses. On Twitter he wrote: ‘For what it’s worth, this doesn’t look or sound quite like an air strike using the typical IAF 1000lb or 2000lb JDAM/Mk80 series to me. Incoming projectile sounds like it’s under power and the explosion frames visible look like largely propellant fire rather than HE [high explosive] detonation…’ Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: ‘The entire world should know: It was barbaric terrorists in Gaza that attacked the hospital in Gaza, and not the IDF. Those who brutally murdered our children also murder their own children.’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has also blamed the United States for the attack, saying in a televised speech late on Tuesday that Washington gave Israel ‘the cover for its aggression.’ ‘The hospital massacre confirms the enemy’s brutality and the extent of his feeling of defeat,’ he said, adding that the attack will be ‘a new turning point.’ Haniyeh called on all Palestinian people ‘to get out and confront the occupation and the settlers.’ He also called on all Arabs, and Muslims to stage protests against Israel. Mark Regev, senior adviser to Netanyahu, told the BBC that Israel would not ‘deliberately target a hospital.’ He said: ‘My information, that I have just received from the highest authority … is that all indications are that this was not Israeli orders, that this was rather a Hamas rocket that fell short.’ Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal also called for protests in front of Israeli embassies across the world after the hospital blast.

In the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters throwing rocks and chanting against Abbas as popular anger boiled over after the blast. Clashes with Palestinian security forces broke out in a number of other cities in the West Bank, which is ruled by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, late on Tuesday, witnesses said. Hundreds of people joined protests that erupted in Beirut and Amman, where an angry crowd gathered outside the Israeli embassy. And in Tunisia hundreds gathered outside French embassy as they denounced the European country – who have ‘firmly’ denounced the strike – and the US as ‘allies of Zionists’.

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