President Joe Biden will travel to Israel on Wednesday, amid fears about the war with Hamas expanding into a larger conflict.
The US leader is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reaffirm the country’s solidarity with Israel, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said.
Announcing the travel plans, Mr Blinken said the president’s visit comes at a critical moment, where he will make clear that “Israel has the right and the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and prevent future attacks”.
The decision comes after nine hours of negotiations between President Biden, Mr Netanyahu and other officials.
Israel-Gaza latest: Hamas ‘releases first video of hostage’
President Biden will also reiterate the “crystal clear message” to any state or non-state trying to “take advantage” of the current situation and attack Israel: “Don’t.”
It comes after around 2,000 US troops, will be ready to deploy within 24 hours – instead of the usual 96 hours – to the Israeli region, which could provide assistance such as medical aid if needed, a US official said.
After meeting with Israeli officials, President Biden is expected to travel to Amman to meet with King Abudllah II of Jordan, Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
‘Keep civilians out of harm’s way’
As the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens, Mr Blinken said the US and Israel had agreed to develop a plan to enable humanitarian aid to reach civilians.
Few details were given, but the plan would include “the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians out of harm’s way”, he said.
It comes as a blockade of aid remains in place at Egypt’s Rafah crossing, contributing to fears that citizens could starve and hospitals would run out of electricity.
Israel is also set to brief the US leader on its war aims and how it will conduct operations in a way that minimises civilian casualties, and enables humanitarian assistance to get to Gaza without benefitting Hamas.
The country’s leaders are planning for a ground offensive on Gaza, which is expected to be by land, sea and air.
Work between the US and Israel will also focus on securing hostages take by Hamas on 7 October, Mr Blinken said.
The Israeli military said 199 captives were being held in the besieged territory, which includes some Americans and Britons.
A Hamas official demanded earlier on Monday that 6,000 Palestinian men and women detained in Israel’s jails be released in exchange for hostages in Gaza.
Iran warns of consequences on Israel
Earlier, Iran’s foreign minister warned that Israel would not be allowed to act in Gaza without consequences.
Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV: “All options are open and we cannot be indifferent to the war crimes committed against the people of Gaza.”
Authorities in Gaza say more than 2,800 people have died, with around a quarter of them children. Around 10,000 are wounded.