U.S. President Joe Biden will fly to Israel tomorrow, as the humanitarian crisis contineues to grow in the Gaza Strip where power and water is cut off ahead of an expected ground invasion by Israeli forces. Hamas troops are suspected of hiding in underground tunnels in Gaza.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden will visit Tel Aviv before going to Jordan where he will meet with King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The White House said Biden will reiterate that the militant group Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination, and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.
“(The) president will hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blinken said the U.S. and Israel agreed to develop a plan “that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza – and them alone.”
He said it is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible, but expressed concern that Hamas militants may try to seize supplies or prevent their distribution.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Tuesday that Turkey has had talks with Hamas officials about the release of nearly 200 people the militants took hostage.
Fidan said many countries have asked Turkey to help secure the release of their citizens. His comments came a day after he spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Palestinians in Gaza have been without electricity and under a complete Israeli siege with no food, fuel or water allowed into the Hamas-controlled territory since Oct. 9. Israel says it imposed the blockade in response to the deadly terrorist attack Hamas launched on Israeli towns on Oct. 7, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis. Nearly 200 others were taken hostage by the terror group.
Israel has amassed 300,000 troops on Gaza’s border, poised for a likely ground invasion, as it vows to wipe out Hamas.
Israeli forces have been hitting Gaza with airstrikes since the Hamas attack, killing more than 2,800 people and wounding at least another 10,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have heeded Israel’s orders to evacuate northern Gaza for the southern half of the Strip ahead of the expected offensive.
King Abdullah warned Tuesday that pushing Palestinian refugees into Jordan or Egypt is not an option, as he called for doing everything necessary to prevent further escalation of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“This is a red line,” Abdullah said. “No refugees to Jordan and also no refugees to Egypt.”
“This is a situation that has to be handled within Gaza and the West Bank,” he said. “And you don’t have to carry this out on the shoulders of others.”
Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the U.N. agency that assists Palestinians, UNRWA, said Monday there is no water for the vast majority of Gaza’s population.
Touma said an estimated 1 million Palestinians have fled toward the south and nearly 400,000 of them are sheltering mostly in UNRWA schools.
The United Nations said humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths will head to Egypt on Tuesday for several days. He also plans to visit Israel.
A Russian-drafted resolution seeking a humanitarian cease-fire and the release of all Israeli and foreign hostages failed to receive the necessary support in a U.N. Security Council vote late Monday.
Only five of the 15 council members supported the measure, four voted against it and six abstained.
The United States was among those who did not support it. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said civilians should not have to suffer for Hamas’ atrocities, but said the proposed text failed to condemn the terror group.
“By failing to condemn Hamas, Russia is giving cover to a terrorist group that brutalizes innocent civilians,” she said. “It is outrageous, it is hypocritical, and it is indefensible.”