U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel on Wednesday to support its war on Hamas, following talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has agreed to allow humanitarian aid to be sent to besieged Gazans, following the death of 1,300 people, mainly civilians, during a Hamas rampage on October 7. The Israeli air strikes have killed over 2,800 Palestinians, a quarter of them children, and driven around half of the 2.3 million Gazans from their homes. The blockade has halted food, fuel, and medical supplies, which are rapidly running out.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Biden’s visit after hours of talks with Netanyahu, in which he said Netanyahu had agreed to develop a plan to provide aid to Gaza civilians. Biden will hear from Israel about its need to defend its people and how Israel will carry out operations to minimize civilian casualties and allow aid to help civilians without benefiting Hamas.
Washington is also attempting to rally Arab states to prevent a wider regional war following Iran’s “preemptive action” from its allies, including the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. Biden is expected to meet King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Jordan and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who accused Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza.
Residents fleeing north have retreated to southern areas like Khan Younis, but have found no respite from bombing. The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reported that only 14% of Gazans had access to water through a single pipe to Khan Younis, which Israel allowed to open for three hours on Monday. Concerns about dehydration and diseases have been high as water and sanitation services have collapsed.
Israel has taken 199 hostages during the militants’ raid, with Hamas releasing a video of one French-Israeli hostage, Maya Schem, calling on world leaders to help her and other captives get home. Israel’s military has called the video “psychological terror against Israeli citizens” and France “vile”.
Washington is trying to get aid through the Rafah crossing, but most Gazans will not be let out. Egypt has said it could allow medical evacuations but rejects mass exodus, which it says would amount to an expulsion of Palestinians from their land. Cross-border fighting has intensified on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, with clashes being the deadliest since the last full-blown war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group 17 years ago.
Israel has ordered the evacuation of 28 of its villages near the Lebanese border. Iran, sponsoring Hamas and Hezbollah, has celebrated Hamas attacks on Israel but denies involvement. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian announced “preemptive action” against Israel in the coming hours, addressing war crimes against Gaza people. The Israeli-occupied West Bank has been experiencing deadly clashes, with the worst unrest in years before the Hamas attacks.