On Thursday, President Biden asked Americans to spend billions more dollars to help Israel fight Hamas while Israel’s defense minister told his troops to be ready to go into the Gaza Strip to destroy the Palestinian militant group.
In a televised White House speech late on Thursday that also addressed Ukraine’s effort to repel Russia’s invasion, Biden said Hamas sought to “annihilate” Israel’s democracy.
Biden, who made an eight-hour visit to Israel on Wednesday, also stressed the urgency of getting relief to Palestinian civilians in Gaza who lack food, water and medicine.
“We can’t ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have opportunity,” he said.
Biden said he would ask Congress on Friday to approve extra funding for Israel. A source familiar with the matter earlier said it would total $14 billion.
The money would “sharpen Israel’s qualitative edge” and strengthen its military capabilities, Biden said.
He said America’s national security required it to support “critical partners” like Israel.
“It’s a smart investment that’s gonna pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said.
On the ground in the Gaza Strip, Israel appeared to be getting closer to a full-scale invasion of the seaside enclave ruled by Hamas. The Israeli military massed troops and equipment near the Gaza border.
“You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops gathered at the Gaza border on Thursday.
Israel has pounded Gaza with air strikes over the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 Israelis. Israel has put the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under siege and has signaled a full-scale invasion.
“All the indications are that the worst is coming,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters in Amman.
Civilians in Gaza say their situation is increasingly desperate as they run short of food, water, fuel and medical supplies. Some 3,500 people have been killed and more than a million have been made homeless, according to Palestinian health officials.
During an eight-hour visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden sought to broker a deal to get aid into Gaza, but had only limited success. He said Israel and Egypt agreed that 20 trucks with relief supplies could cross into the enclave. Two Egyptian security sources said equipment was sent on Thursday through its border crossing to repair roads on the Gaza side. More than 100 trucks were waiting in Egypt.
The crossing has been out of operation amid Israeli bombardments on the Palestinian side of the border.
While some officials previously expected aid to enter Gaza on Friday, the chances appeared to dwindle. The newly appointed U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield was still negotiating the “exact modalities” of aid deliveries with Israeli and Egyptian officials, the State Department said.
There have been repeated delays and obstacles, and Israel has demanded assurances that relief supplies could not be commandeered by Hamas militants.
The United Nations has called for aid to return to pre-conflict levels of 100 trucks a day. Secretary General Antonio Guterres planned to visit the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza on Friday, a move that Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, told a rally in New York City showed that “his top priority is giving aid to the terrorists.”
Flashpoints beyond Gaza
Meanwhile, a Gaza hospital explosion on Wednesday that enraged the Arab world and the anticipated Israeli ground invasion have heightened fears of the conflict spreading.
Palestinians blamed an Israeli air strike for the hospital blast, but Israel said it was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian militants. Biden backed the Israeli account.
Palestinian officials had said 471 people were killed in the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital late on Tuesday, and Israel’s foreign ministry said “dozens” of people died.
U.S. troops attacked in Iraq, Syria and on alert for more strikes
On Thursday, U.S. officials said Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups, with regional tensions soaring during the Israel-Hamas war.
President Biden has sent naval power to the Middle East in the past two weeks, including two aircraft carriers, other warships and about 2,000 Marines.
There has been an uptick in attacks on U.S. forces since the conflict in Israel broke out on Oct. 7 when Palestinian militants from Hamas attacked southern Israel. On Wednesday, a drone hit U.S. forces in Syria resulting in minor injuries, while another one was brought down.
Israeli defense minister says troops will soon see Gaza “from inside”
On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Gallant told troops gathered at the Gaza border that they would soon see the Palestinian enclave “from inside”, suggesting an expected ground invasion with the aim of “annihilating Hamas could be nearing.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed President Biden with a visit to demonstrate Western support for the war against Hamas. Sunak also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who called the targeting of Gaza civilians “heinous.”
Israel has put the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under siege and bombarded the enclave in strikes that have killed thousands and made more than a million homeless.
In Gaza’s north, footage obtained by Reuters from the Jabaliya refugee camp showed residents digging with their bare hands inside a damaged building to free a small boy and girl trapped under masonry. The body of a man was also pulled out.
West Bank a possible “third front” for Israel
Violence in the occupied West Bank has surged since Israel began bombarding the Gaza Strip and clashing with Hezbollah at the Lebanon border, fueling concerns the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war.
U.S. Navy warship near Yemen intercepted projectiles, Pentagon says
On Thursday, a U.S. Navy warship intercepted three cruise missiles and several drones launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement from Yemen potentially toward Israel, the Pentagon said.
Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups as regional tensions soar during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Pentagon said the destroyer USS Carney was operating in the northern Red Sea on Thursday when it brought down the projectiles and there were no injuries.
Jordan fears “the worst is coming” in Gaza war
Jordan’s foreign minister said on Thursday the country feared the worst was yet to come in the Israel-Hamas war, with no signs of success in efforts to de-escalate tensions.
In remarks at a press conference with his German counterpart, Ayman Safadi said the war would have “catastrophic repercussions” and urged “protecting the region from the danger of its expansion.”
All the indications are that the worst is coming. The catastrophe will have painful consequences in coming periods,” Safadi said, adding that diplomatic efforts were not yielding any results in ending the conflict.
“The decision to end the war is not with us, it’s with Israel and we must exert all efforts to end it,” Safadi said.