(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced Monday night.
Blinken made the announcement from Israel, where it was early Tuesday morning, following a lengthy meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Beyond the news of Biden’s impending visit, Blinken also announced the U.S. and Israel will develop a plan “that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza and them alone, including the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians out of harm’s way,” he said.
At his address to the media, Blinken said Biden has a four-part goal.
“First, the president will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security. President Biden will again make clear, as he’s done unequivocally since Hamas’ slaughter of more than 1400 people, including at least 30 Americans, that Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists, and to prevent future attacks,” Blinken said. “The president will hear from Israel what it needs to defend its people as we continue to work with Congress to meet those needs.”
As he continued, Blinken said the president “will underscore our crystal-clear message to any actor, state or non-state, trying to take advantage of this crisis to attack Israel: Don’t. To that end, he’s deployed two aircraft carrier groups and other military assets to the region.”
Blinken also said Biden will continue coordinating with Israeli partners on working to get hostages released from Hamas.
Lastly, Secretary Blinken said Biden will be briefed on Israel’s “war aims and strategy.”
In an audio-only briefing with reporters Monday night, White House national security spokesman John Kirby offered a light preview of the president’s trip to Israel and Jordan this week, echoing what Sec. Blinken stated at his news conference — that Biden will be “visiting and arriving at a critical moment” in the Israel-Hamas war.
Biden will hold “meetings” in Israel, Kirby said, including a bilateral meeting with Netanyahu and “a chance also” to meet with other Israeli officials as well.
He said Biden would also travel Wednesday to the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he’ll meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Biden administration has pledged unwavering support to Israel in the wake of the terror attacks inflicted by Hamas. The terrorist group launched an unprecedented incursion on Oct. 7, killing hundreds at a music festival and families inside Israeli communities near the Gaza border. Hamas also took nearly 200 hostages from Israel, including Americans.
President Biden called Hamas’ actions “sheer evil” and quickly bolstered munitions to Israel. Top officials, including Secretary Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have been deployed to the region in a show of solidarity.
In recent days, Biden has also expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis unfolding for Palestinian civilians, stating while Israel has a right to defend itself it must follow the “rules of war.”
In his strongest statements yet on Israel’s counteroffensive against Hamas, he cautioned that an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake.”
The death toll continues to climb in Gaza, with at least 2,750 people killed and 9,700 more injured. In Israel, at least 1,400 people have died and 3,400 have been injured.
Israel, which cut off electricity to Gaza, told more than a million civilians to flee south as it prepares for a possible ground assault. The evacuation call, rejected by Hamas, prompted panic and forced residents to make difficult decisions on whether to stay or leave.
The crisis presents a diplomatic challenge for the Biden administration.
A senior U.S. official previously told ABC News that if Biden did accept Netanyahu’s invitation, it would be to try to “modulate” decision-making inside the Israeli cabinet with a belief in the administration that only Biden can successfully urge restraint.
Blinken has said a new focus is “safe zones” for civilians inside Gaza, as well as negotiating the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Israel and Egypt to allow for the flow of humanitarian assistance.
But as of Monday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said no fuel, food, water or other kinds of aid had entered Gaza.
There are also concerns that the Hamas-Israel war could spread into a wider regional conflict. Fighting has increased tension along the Lebanon-Israel border, where there have been some clashes between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The Pentagon has placed about 2,000 American troops on a heightened state of readiness to possibly be deployed to the Middle East in case they’re needed, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.
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