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Biden to visit Israel on Wednesday

President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday, the White House announced, in a dramatic show of support for the country after Hamas killed more than 1,400 Israelis in a terrorist attack – a move that comes as Israel is expected to launch a hard-hitting offensive imminently. a retaliatory ground invasion of Gaza that raised humanitarian concerns.

Biden will also travel to Jordan, where he plans to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has suffered Israeli airstrikes that killed more than 2,700 Palestinians. .

Hamas has taken numerous hostages in Gaza, including an unknown number of Americans. Biden will work to get as much information as possible about the hostage situation during his trip, White House spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing with reporters Monday evening.

Kirby stressed that the United States did not seek assurances that Israel would not launch its ground invasion during Biden’s visit to the country. “We do not dictate conditions or operational guidance to the Israelis,” Kirby said. “We don’t want to see an escalation. We want to make sure that humanitarian aid starts flowing.

US calls for aid, safe zones in Gaza

Yet U.S. officials waited Monday evening to announce Biden’s trip to Israel until they received commitments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a humanitarian package, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the discussions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken received assurances during a marathon meeting in Tel Aviv this week, then announced Biden’s visit.

During the seven-and-a-half-hour meeting, Israeli and U.S. officials set up separate rooms and exchanged documents between the two sides, negotiating on humanitarian issues including the delivery of aid to Gaza and the creation of safe zones for Palestinian civilians, said a State Department official, speaking at the news conference. condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions.

Although Blinken welcomed an agreement on humanitarian issues, his announcement included few details, likely indicating that differences remain between the two allies. The provision of humanitarian aid is a sensitive issue in Israel, particularly among far-right politicians linked to Netanyahu who have pushed him to wage a scorched earth campaign in Gaza in response to the terrorist attack.

The White House is deeply concerned that the conflict is drifting into a broader regional conflagration, and Biden has warned other actors, particularly Iran, not to get involved. His visit to Israel could underline this message.

Officials also fear that anger in Arab countries, where many citizens have deep sympathy for the Palestinian cause, could boil over and create pressure on their leaders to take action against Israel.

Biden has repeatedly emphasized his support for Israel and said the country had a duty to respond to the horrific attack, in which Palestinian Hamas gunmen breached Israel’s sophisticated border fence in several locations before chasing civilians into their homes and cars and shooting people indiscriminately.

But the president and his top aides have also sought to draw a distinction between Hamas and Palestinian civilians. In recent days, they have highlighted efforts to ensure humanitarian aid can flow to Gaza and to secure a humanitarian corridor where Palestinian Americans can leave the densely populated enclave of more than 2 million people, about half of them are children.

Israel has said its goal is to eliminate Hamas and urged more than a million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza to avoid danger, an order the United Nations has called impossible. He also announced a complete siege of Gaza in response to Hamas attacks, cutting off food, fuel, electricity and water, which human rights groups say violates international law .

Democratic unity begins to fracture on Israel-Gaza

Biden spoke with Sisi on Monday, the White House said, and the two discussed “ongoing efforts to alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in coordination with the United Nations, Jordan, the Authority Palestinian Authority, Israel and other regional partners.

Egypt has helped broker ceasefires between Israel and Palestine during past incursions and plays a critical role in ongoing efforts to secure humanitarian aid. And on Egypt’s border with Gaza, the Rafah crossing could be the only exit for Palestinians seeking to flee the enclave amid Israel’s bombing campaign.

Blinken sought to negotiate a deal to open the Rafah crossing to allow the entry of much-needed aid and the exit of foreigners and dual nationals. After his meeting Sunday with Sissi, Blinken said Rafah “will be open” so hundreds of U.S. citizens can have the chance to leave.

But confusion reigned around the deal and the crossing remained closed, deepening frustration and panic among humanitarian groups, who warn that time is running out for Gaza’s wounded and displaced to receive essential supplies – and, in many cases, vital –.

The planned trip to Israel is somewhat reminiscent of Biden’s February visit to kyiv, when he sought to dramatically show his support for Ukraine. The trip was also intended to show Biden’s personal support for an ally that had suffered a bloody attack, in Ukraine’s case, from Russia. This visit remained secret until Biden’s arrival.


Washington

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