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.
Tel Aviv is just 65 kilometres (40 miles) from the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-ruled territory which Israel has been pounding since a devastating October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
This figure included about 500 people who were killed by an Israeli airstrike at a Gaza hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Tuesday
The ministry said the number of casualties at the Gaza City hospital, where many civilians had sought shelter, is expected to rise.
Reports say about 10,859 people have been injured in Gaza; while another 1,200 were reported missing in the occupied West Bank.
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