Biden administration pressures Israel's Gantz over Gaza aid shortfall

Benny Gantz, a top political rival to Benjamin Netanyahu, is visiting Washington and London this week

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz leaves the Pentagon on March 5. AFP
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US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday asked Benny Gantz, an Israeli war cabinet member and political rival to Prime Minister to Benjamin Netanyahu, to ensure more humanitarian aid gets into Gaza.

The Pentagon also said it was working closely with other US government agencies to look at what requirements might be needed to open a maritime aid delivery corridor into the besieged territory.

In his meeting with Mr Gantz, who leads the centrist National Unity party, Mr Austin “expressed strong concerns over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and requested Minister Gantz’s support in enabling more humanitarian assistance and distribution into Gaza", Pentagon press secretary Maj Gen Pat Ryder said.

He said Mr Austin told Mr Gantz of the “critical need for a credible and implementable plan” to protect civilians and address the humanitarian situation before any ground operations in Rafah.

Israel has said it will attack Gaza's southernmost city even though more than one million Palestinians are sheltering there with almost nowhere else to go.

Mr Gantz is seen as a possible successor to Mr Netanyahu, whose popularity in Israel has plummeted since the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Experts have said the administration of President Joe Biden was eager to speak to Mr Gantz, suggesting it regards him as a leader in waiting.

The Pentagon is also considering what “unique capabilities” it would offer a proposed maritime corridor taking aid from Cyprus to Gaza.

No plans have been finalised, Maj Gen Ryder said, and the US operation would be led by the USAid agency.

Plans for a sea route are under discussion as Israel reduces the number of aid lorries it allows into Gaza. Jordan, the US and other countries are parachuting meals to Palestinians on the brink of famine.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the White House would continue to urge Israel to allow more lorries to enter, and to open more routes and crossings as they remain the best way to get aid in.

“We're looking at both military and commercial options to move assistance by sea – there's still an awful lot of work that's being done on this,” Mr Kirby told reporters.

He said aid drops will remain a part of a “sustained effort” to increase the amount of aid entering Gaza.

Jordan and US drop new batch of aid into Gaza

Jordan and US drop new batch of aid into Gaza
Updated: March 06, 2024, 11:02 AM