President Joe Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday, accepting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday.
Israel has become an active war zone as it prepares for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. By going on this trip, Biden could be putting himself in harms way as he shows support for a U.S. ally. He will also work on getting aid to Palestinians in Gaza, Blinken said.
The U.S. and Israel “have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza,” said Blinken, who announced the news from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Blinken said the president was traveling to the region to make clear “Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and to prevent future attacks.”
The administration is also actively engaged in trying to locate American hostages held by the militant group Hamas.
“The President will continue to coordinate closely with our Israeli partners to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas, including men, women, small children, Holocaust survivors and American citizens, as an indispensable humanitarian effort,” Blinken said.
Hamas released a video Monday claiming it is holding 250 hostages, held by Al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, and by other militant groups.
The Hamas spokesperson claimed they were treating Israeli prisoners humanely and that they were treating international hostages as “guests.”
In a televised statement, spokesperson Abu Obeida said 22 hostages had been killed in bombings of the Gaza Strip and claimed the international hostages will be released when it is safe.
The video also showed Mia Schem, a 21-year-old woman who has dual Israeli and French citizenship, who was taken hostage on Oct. 7 while she was attending a music festival where 260 people were killed.
There are reportedly at least 15 Americans among the hostages held by Hamas.
On social media, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the video released by Hamas. He listed out a number of atrocities committed by Hamas during their attacks on Israelis last weekend, and said, “don’t buy Hamas’ cover up.”
What is the Biden administration doing about Hamas hostages?
Biden said he is doing “everything in our power,” to find the missing Americans. “And – I’m not going to go into the detail of that, but there’s – we’re workin’ like hell on it,” he told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, traveled to Israel over the weekend to meet with Israeli government officials and with the families of the hostages held by Hamas, as Deseret News reported.
“Meeting today with the families of hostages has been something I will never forget. And I can only imagine the horror in their lives. My heart reaches out to them, my prayers join with yours to see those hostages returned to their loved ones,” Romney said.
The lawmakers were led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish American lawmaker in U.S. history.
Schumer said he promised the families, “we would do everything we could, including speaking to the president next week.”
Biden administration urges caution over occupation of Gaza
Following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, the Biden administration strongly supported Israel. The president has also expressed concern over the escalating conflict in Gaza that is affecting civilians. Israel shut off the water supply in Gaza last week and warned Palestinians living in northern parts to evacuate and head to southern Gaza on Thursday.
The Biden administration pressured the Israeli government to restart the water supply, especially in southern Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have fled to, as Axios reported. The administration has also called for the creation of a humanitarian corridor in Egypt that will allow foreign nationals to exit Gaza.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said John Kirby, director of strategic communications for the National Security Council at a White House press briefing.
Israel appears to be preparing to launch a ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant promised the effort would “destroy the rule of Hamas.”
“It will be lengthy. It will be lethal. It will be powerful. And it will be for forever,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In his “60 Minutes” interview, Biden urged caution against an occupation effort of Gaza.
“I think it’d be a big mistake,” Biden said. “Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don’t represent all the Palestinian people.”
The lack of a plan could make it a very costly, long-term occupation. One U.S. official, whose name was withheld, told WSJ that jumping into a war without a strategy can have consequences.
Taking the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as an example, the official said, “If you destroy Hamas, what’s going to fill the vacuum? You destroy al Qaeda and you get ISIS. You destroy Hamas, you get Hamas 2.0.”
https://www.deseret.com/u-s-world/2023/10/16/23919763/hamas-foreign-hostages-update When is President Biden going to Israel?