President Joe Biden is set to visit Tel Aviv on Wednesday to demonstrate support for Israel’s anti-terrorism security operations as the Israel–Hamas conflict rages.
President Biden is anticipated to hold discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israeli figures.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday night that upon arrival in Israel, President Biden will be briefed on Israel’s strategy, the pace of its military operations, and the status of the hostages.
The president’s agenda includes reaffirming the United States’ support of Israel’s “right to defend itself and to go after the Hamas terrorists,” to gather information on the hostages “so that we can develop policy options,” and to “discuss the critical need for humanitarian assistance to get into Gaza as well as the ability for innocent civilians to get out.”
Discussions will also cover “what [Israel officials] believe they need to continue to defend their people,” and the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza “in a way that does not benefit Hamas, but actually benefits the people of Gaza,” including safe passage for civilians to get out.
“In particular, American citizens, who we know there are several hundred that have not been able to leave Gaza. So he’ll be talking to them about that,” Mr. Kirby said.
President Biden will then travel to Jordan and meet with His Majesty King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr. Kirby said that President Biden’s agenda during his visit to Amman, Jordan, includes reiterating the United States’ belief that Hamas does not represent the “vast majority” of the Palestinian people. It will also include discussing humanitarian aid.
“They are victims here, as well, of Hamas,” said Mr. Kirby, who noted that Hamas terrorists have been sheltering in civilian homes and schools, and in tunnels underneath residences, effectively using Gazans “as human shields.”
President Biden will “make it clear that we want to continue to work with all our partners in the region, including Israel, to get humanitarian assistance in and again to provide some sort of safe passage for civilians to get out,” Mr Kirby added.
Mr. Kirby noted that Egypt’s president “obviously has a significant role to play” in providing safe passage for Gazans, with the Rafah crossing, the southernmost border crossing from Gaza that borders Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
“He will certainly reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination,” Mr. Kirby said. “And he’ll discuss, again, the humanitarian needs of all civilians in Gaza.”
U.S. officials have been in talks with Egypt for it to open the Rafah crossing to allow foreign nationals in Gaza to enter Egypt in exchange for it supplying humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians congregated at the Rafah crossing amid Israel’s blockade.
Israel has vowed to continue its blockade unless Hamas releases more than 120 hostages. Americans, Thais, and other nationalities are among the hostages.
Mr. Kirby would not comment on reports that Hamas is open to negotiating the release of U.S. and other foreign national hostages, saying the terrorist group should not have “held any hostages in the first place.”
“They should release them immediately,” he added.
“We have to obviously take any public statements by Hamas with a huge grain of salt,” Mr. Kirby added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken first announced the plans following more than seven hours of talks with Mr. Netanyahu and other high-ranking Israeli officials.
Earlier, Mr. Blinken met with Mr. Abbas on Oct. 13 to “work to further calm the situation for the benefit of Palestinians, Israelis, and the tens of thousands of Americans who also call the West Bank home.”
The trip comes as growing humanitarian concerns arise for civilians blockaded in the Gaza Strip. Israel is preparing for possible ground operations to combat Hamas terrorists and rescue Israeli hostages, including men, women, and children.
President Biden aims to send a strong message of support for Israel, emphasizing the United States’ commitment to the country’s security.
Mr. Kirby stressed that the United States is “not putting conditions on the military assistance” being provided to Israel.
“They have a right to defend themselves. They have a right to go after this terrorist threat. And we’re going to continue to do everything we can to help them do that,” he said.
“As I said earlier, unlike Hamas, the United States and Israel, as two vibrant democracies, believe in respect for the innocent life, we ascribe to the law of armed conflict, and that will continue to be our mutual expectations going forward,” Mr. Kirby added.
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Blinken and Mr. Netanyahu were forced to shelter in a bunker for five minutes during a recent visit by the top U.S. official as a missile attack by the Hamas terrorist organization struck nearby.
Emel Akan contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times