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President Biden to visit Israel at ‘critical moment,’ his second visit to a war zone this year

US President Joe Biden speaks at a roundtable with Jewish community leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House on October 11, 2023. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden will travel to Israel and neighboring Jordan on Wednesday, top US officials say, a high-stakes visit that comes amid Israel’s escalating war against Hamas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Monday that the day-long trip to the region will reaffirm America’s support for one of its closest allies.

“He’s coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region, and for the world, ” Blinken said, adding that “the president will reaffirm the United States solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security.”

White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Biden will “reaffirm our solidarity with Israel, and he will look forward to getting an update from Israeli officials about their strategy and the pace of their military operations. He’ll certainly expert to hear from Israel what they believe they need to continue to defend their people, and so that we can continue to work with Congress to try to meet those needs.”

Biden is scheduled to talk with Israeli officials about the nearly 200 hostages that Hamas is believed to be holding in the Gaza Strip, and learn additional information about the situation and coordinate efforts to secure their release, Kirby said.

The president will also travel to Amman, Jordan, where he’ll meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. There, they’ll discuss the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s civilians.

“Innocent civilians are innocent civilians,” Kirby said. “And none of them, no matter what side of the line they live on, or how they call themselves or how they worship deserve to be victims of armed conflict. As I’ve said before, the number of appropriate civilian casualties is zero. And we have been nothing but consistent about that.”

The trip will be just one day long, but “there’s an awful lot on the agenda,” Kirby said. “Again, reiterating that Israel has the right to defend itself and to go after these Hamas terrorists, and that the United States will continue to support them.”

“I would remind that Hamas is deliberately putting innocent civilians at greater risk by setting up road blocks, not letting them move, putting up commanding control headquarters in tunnels underneath their homes and schools and hospitals.”

The trip will be Biden’s second visit to a war zone this year after he made a surprise trip to Ukraine in February just before the country marked one year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Since the attacks by Hamas fighters began on October 7, more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed and 3,400 injured in brutal attacks on civilians. The massacre included reports of an elderly woman gunned down at a bus stop, children murdered, and partygoers slaughtered at a music festival.

In response, Israel has launched a bombardment of missile strikes on Gaza, leveling parts of the densely populated city and displacing thousands of Palestinians, leaving them unsure how they will get food or water. The coastal enclave’s health ministry reported 2,778 killed and 9,938 injured since Israel’s counter-strikes began.

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