Biden to visit Israel on Wednesday after warning against Gaza occupation

US Secretary of State says US and Israel agreed on plan for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza citizens

US President Joe Biden will also meet with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. EPA
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US President Joe Biden will visit Israel and Jordan on Wednesday, after warning that a long-term Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake”.

Mr Biden will reaffirm US solidarity with Israel and the "ironclad commitment to its security," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after over seven hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Biden will then travel to Amman for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the White House said.

While there, he will "certainly reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people's right to dignity and self determination", White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said.

"And he'll discuss again the humanitarian needs of all civilians in Gaza.

"He'll 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 [of Gaza]."

When asked if Israel's expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip would be on hold until Mr Biden left the region, Mr Kirby said: "We're not dictating times or operational directions to the Israelis."

Mr Blinken said Mr Biden will state that Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas.

He said the US and Israel agreed to develop a plan that would allow humanitarian aid to reach citizens in Gaza, and will try to make sure that Hamas allows the essentials to reach civilians.

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, Mr Biden said he was confident Israel would act within the law as the country prepares for a ground offensive in Gaza in response to the Hamas attack last week.

“I'm confident that there's going to be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine, food and water,” he said.

The densely populated Gaza Strip has been bombarded by Israeli air strikes since last week and basic resources such as water, fuel and food are scarce.

More than 2,700 people have been killed in Gaza so far, the majority of whom are women and children. The Hamas attacks on Israel left 1,300 people dead.

The US has been seeking to contain the conflict from spreading in the Middle East. Mr Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday to meet Mr Netanyahu after meetings in Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington has held back-channel discussions with Tehran to warn Iran against entering the conflict.

Late on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Israel would not be allowed to act in Gaza without consequences, warning of “pre-emptive action” in the coming hours.

“Leaders of the Resistance will not allow the Zionist regime to take any action in Gaza,” Mr Amirabdollahian told state TV.

“All options are open and we cannot be indifferent to the war crimes committed against the people of Gaza.”

He was referring to the so-called Axis of Resistance – a Tehran-backed network that encompasses militant groups in Palestine, Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Syrian government.

The US has also sent a second aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean as a message of deterrence.

When asked about his message to Hezbollah and Iran on the potential of the conflict escalating, Mr Biden responded: “Don't. Don't, don't, don't.”

Mr Biden also cautioned against the potential long-term Israeli occupation of Gaza.

“I think it'd be a big mistake,” he said.

Antony Blinken says Egypt's Rafah border crossing will reopen

Antony Blinken says Egypt's Rafah border crossing will reopen

“Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza.”

He also reaffirmed his support of Israel and its aim to eliminate Hamas entirely, and said he still believes in the pathway to a Palestinian state.

But as to whether that is achievable in the immediate term, Mr Biden was less positive.

“Not now. But I think Israel understands that a significant portion of the Palestinian people cannot share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah,” he said.

Mr Biden also believes the effort to establish ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not over yet.

Meanwhile, Congress returned to session on Monday with the task of quickly passing legislation that would direct financial assistance to Israel.

However, that remains impossible at the moment without a speaker in the House of Representatives.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 11:05 AM