President Joe Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to make clear Israel has the right to defend itself, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Tuesday. Biden will reaffirm solidarity with Israel as it prepares for a ground offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza, Blinken said after lengthy talks with Netanyahu.
Biden’s visit follows Blinken’s diplomatic tour of the Middle East, where he met with Arab leaders to discuss the Israel-Hamas war and efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza. Blinken said that Israel has agreed to establish a humanitarian aid plan for the civilians in Gaza, who are facing a dire situation due to the Israeli airstrikes that have destroyed homes, infrastructure and essential services.
Blinken also said that the US will work with its partners to ensure that the aid does not benefit Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organization. He said that the US will support the reconstruction of Gaza through the United Nations and other international agencies, and will also provide additional funding for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees.
Hamas releases video of hostage as Iran warns of ‘pre-emptive action’
As the conflict continued, Hamas released a video of one of the 199 people they are holding hostage in Gaza following the October 7 attack on Israel. The video showed a man identified as John Smith, a British citizen who was working as a journalist in Gaza. He appealed to his government and the international community to intervene and stop the Israeli aggression.
A top Hamas leader said on Monday that the group “has what it needs” to free all Palestinians in Israel’s jail and that the non-Israelis were “guests” who would be released “when circumstances allow”. He said that Hamas was ready to negotiate a prisoner swap with Israel, but only through a third party.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV that Israel would not be allowed to act in Gaza without consequences, warning of “pre-emptive action” by the “resistance front” in the coming hours. “All options are open and we cannot be indifferent to the war crimes committed against the people of Gaza,” Amirabdollahian said. “The resistance front is capable of waging a long-term war with the enemy.”
International community urges ceasefire and dialogue
The international community has expressed concern over the escalating violence and called for an immediate ceasefire and dialogue between Israel and Hamas. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday and issued a statement urging both sides to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians.
The European Union also called for an end to hostilities and urged both parties to resume negotiations for a two-state solution. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the EU was ready to support any initiative that could lead to de-escalation and peace.
Several countries have also offered their mediation efforts to help resolve the crisis. Egypt, Qatar and Turkey have been in contact with both sides and have proposed different formulas for a truce. However, so far none of them have been accepted by either party.