President Biden announced an agreement Wednesday to allow humanitarian aid to move from Egypt to Gaza and confirmed $100 million in U.S. funding for assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Biden, speaking in Tel Aviv as part of a trip to Israel in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, said he asked the Israeli Cabinet during a meeting to agree to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza “based on understanding that there will be inspections, and aid should go to civilians, not to Hamas.”
“Israel agreed the humanitarian assistance can begin to move from Egypt to Gaza,” Biden said.
While en route back to Washington, Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who agreed to allow up to 20 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza at the Rafah border crossing. In a readout of the call, the White House said the two leaders agreed to work together to encourage “an urgent and robust” international response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
“The bottom line is Al-Sisi deserves some real credit,” Biden told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Biden said the $100 million in U.S. funding would support more than 1 million displaced and conflict-affected Palestinians, including by filling emergency needs in Gaza.
The White House said in a statement following Biden’s remarks that the U.S. would provide the assistance via the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations.
“We will continue to work closely with partners in the region to stress the importance of upholding the law of war, supporting those who are trying to get to safety or provide assistance, and facilitating access to food, water, medical care, and shelter,” the statement read.
Humanitarian aid had been stuck at Egypt’s border with Gaza in recent days, with Israel sealing off the area following terrorist attacks by Hamas, which controls Gaza.
The announcement came amid heightened pressure from world leaders about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been repeatedly hit with retaliatory Israeli strikes and has been cut off from access to food, water and medicine.
Tensions around the Middle East rose Tuesday in the form of protests that included people targeting U.S. embassies and Israeli consulates in neighboring countries after a hospital in Gaza was hit, killing several hundred patients and those seeking refuge. A meeting with Arab leaders and Biden in Jordan was canceled just before the president took off for Tel Aviv on Tuesday in the wake of the hospital explosion.
“Based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza,” Biden said.
The president in his remarks addressed the plight of scores of Palestinians who are suffering amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, saying the United States “unequivocally stands for the protection of civilian life during conflict.”
“The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas,” Biden said. “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. Hamas uses innocents, innocent families in Gaza, as human shields, putting their command centers, their weapons, their communications tunnels in residential areas.”
Biden visited Israel on Wednesday to show his unwavering support for the country as it prepares for an offensive against Gaza, and he warned hostile actors against targeting Israel.
The U.S. has repositioned military assets in the region and provided munitions and interceptors for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, and Biden previewed an “unprecedented” request he would make of Congress for additional support in the coming days.
But the president also cautioned Israel against becoming consumed by rage, likening it to feelings in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.
“You can’t look at what has happened here … and not scream out for justice,” Biden said. “Justice must be done. But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”
Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET