Washington — President Biden will travel to Israel Wednesday to show support for a key U.S. ally that is still reeling from the series of surprise attacks by Hamas that left roughly 1,400 Israelis dead earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced early Tuesday morning in Israel and Monday night in the U.S.
From Israel, the president will head to Jordan to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Blinken said Mr. Biden’s visit “comes at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world.”
The president is coming to reaffirm America’s solidarity with Israel and “our ironclad commitment to its security,” Blinken said. He will also reiterate that Israel “has the right, and indeed, the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and to prevent future attacks.”
Mr. Biden will also receive a briefing on Israel’s war aims and strategy, and he’ll hear from Israel “how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow civilians to Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas,” Blinken said.
Blinken also announced that the U.S. and Israel have agreed to develop a plan to enable international humanitarian aid from donor countries and organizations to reach civilians in Gaza. He said this includes the possibility of creating areas to keep civilians safe from harm.
Mr. Biden was invited to visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. News of the trip also comes amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have killedsince the Oct. 7 attacks, according to Gaza officials. Israel has sealed the border of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip since the attack and is widely expected to soon launch a ground offensive.
Thirty U.S. citizens were among those killed in the latest flare-up of violence, and as many as 600 U.S. nationals were thought to be trapped in Gaza, as of Monday. A State Department spokesperson said Sunday that 13 Americans who were in Israel remain unaccounted for.
Blinken traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog as part of a whirlwind diplomacy tour this week that included stops in several other Middle Eastern countries. On Monday, reporters traveling with Blinken had to shelter in place as the secretary met with Netanyahu and other officials, a reminder of the tense security situation there as Mr. Biden prepares to travel.
Last Friday, the president, along with the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, spoke with the families of missing Americans.
“I assured them of my personal commitment to do everything possible to return every missing American to their families,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re working around the clock to secure the release of Americans held by Hamas, in close cooperation with Israel and our partners around the region. We’re not going to stop until we bring them home.”
The president has unequivocally condemned Hamas, and voiced the United States’ strong and continued support for Israel. David Friedman, the former ambassador to Israel under President Donald Trump, thanked Mr. Biden for his “exceptional” moral, tactical, diplomatic and military support.
Netanyahu’s government has vowed to destroy the Palestinian group, and President Biden told CBS News’ “” that Israel can and must “go after Hamas.” But that a full occupation of Gaza would be “a big mistake,” and the U.S. has called repeatedly on Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.
“I think Israel understands that a significant portion of Palestinian people do not share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah,” the president said in the interview.
Meanwhile, many in Congress are hoping to pass an aid package to help Israel respond to the Hamas attack. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, returning from a trip to the country, pledged the Senate’s support in a floor speech on Monday. The New York Democrat said he’ll work with the Biden administration to craft an emergency supplemental bill that will include humanitarian, diplomatic and intelligence aid. Schumer said the Senate will do “everything possible to help Israel eliminate the threat” of Hamas.
Jack Turman and Tucker Reals contributed reporting.