Blinken urges Bibi to allow aid into Gaza to maintain wider support for invasion
Secretary of State Tony Blinken urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Monday to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza in order to maintain international support for the Israeli operation to dismantle Hamas, two Israeli officials said.
Why it matters: The Israeli military is preparing for a ground invasion of northern Gaza amid growing international pressure to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the enclave, especially in the south where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to after Israel's evacuation warning.
Driving the news: Blinken returned to Israel on Monday after visiting several countries in the region in an attempt to prevent the fighting between Hamas and Israel from spilling into a regional war.
- Blinken met Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and also held talks for several hours with the Israeli war cabinet in the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv and discussed the war plans, Israeli officials said.
- Red alert sirens went off during Blinken's meeting with the war cabinet, forcing the secretary of state and Israeli ministers to move to a safe room in the building for a few minutes, Israeli officials said.
Behind the scenes: The two Israeli officials said Blinken stressed in his meetings with the Israeli officials that in order for Israel to continue getting international support for a ground operation in Gaza, it must address the worsening humanitarian situation.
- "The Biden administration understands the need to dismantle Hamas and stresses that one of the ways to make sure there is enough time to do it is by avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," a senior Israeli official said.
- State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller declined to comment.
Between the lines: The Israeli government has been reluctant to allow humanitarian aid to Gaza because it wants to put pressure on Hamas to release at least some of the 199 hostages it captured, especially women, children and the elderly, during its deadly Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli officials.
- Netanyahu is also concerned that some members of his coalition will oppose the move and that it could prompt backlash from the Israeli public.
- Netanyahu, as he has done before, could use the U.S. pressure and Blinken's messages to help him pass a decision in the cabinet to allow some aid into Gaza.
The big picture: On Monday, President Biden spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of Scholz's trip to Israel and Egypt this week, according to a White House official. Biden held a separate call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the official said.
- Biden and Sisi agreed the current situation in Gaza is extremely dangerous and needs to be de-escalated in order to avoid widening the crisis in the region, Sisi's office said in a statement.
- They also agreed protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip should be a priority.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.