President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel and Jordan on Wednesday to meet with Israeli and Arab leaders amid growing concerns that the Israel-Hamas war could escalate into a larger regional conflict. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Biden’s visit as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip worsens and Israel prepares for a possible ground attack on the territory to eliminate Hamas militants responsible for the most lethal assault on Jews since the Holocaust.
Biden aims to send the strongest message yet that the US is supporting Israel, with his Democratic administration pledging military support and asking Congress for $2 billion in additional aid for both Israel and Ukraine. Biden’s visit could be seen as a provocative move by Hamas’ chief sponsor, Iran, or potentially tone-deaf by Arab nations as civilian casualties mount in Gaza. Blinken has been traveling around the Mideast to prevent the war with Hamas from igniting a broader regional conflict.
Biden will be briefed by Israeli officials on their war aims and strategy, and will hear about how they intend to conduct operations to minimize civilian casualties and enable humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza without benefiting Hamas. Biden will also visit Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Aid trucks idled at Egypt’s border with Gaza, as residents and humanitarian groups pleaded for water, food, and fuel. President Biden postponed a visit to Pueblo, Colorado, to consult with aides and fellow leaders about the Middle East’s situation. He spoke with Egypt’s el-Sissi, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the fallout from Hamas militants’ surprise attacks on Israel and retaliatory strikes that killed at least 2,778 Palestinians. European Union leaders will hold an emergency summit on Tuesday, as the war between Israel and Hamas could fuel tensions in Europe and bring more refugees. Iran’s foreign minister has warned of “preemptive action” if Israel moves closer to its looming ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The US has not detected any indication of Iran’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict. While intelligence indicates Iran is aware of Hamas’ preparations for a potential attack on Israel, the US has not found any evidence of direct Iranian involvement in the October 7 attack. Israel is preparing for a new front opening on its northern border with Lebanon, where it has exchanged fire with Hezbollah. President Biden has been briefed on the situation in Israel and Gaza, underlining his support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism.
White House officials said Biden’s talks with Arab leaders in Amman will largely focus on humanitarian concerns for Gaza’s 2.3 million people and make clear that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination.