President Joe Biden is expected to visit Tel Aviv on Wednesday as Israeli troops prepare to enter the Gaza Strip on the ground.
But on Tuesday, White House officials announced President Biden would not visit Jordan during this trip, as was originally planned.
"After consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt," one White House official said in a statement.
While in the air en route to Israel, President Biden released a statement saying he was "outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted."
"The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy," he said.
Biden will meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, but will no longer have key face to face meetings in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt’s President El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Biden is is expected to speak by phone to Abbas and El-Sisi.
While it appeared days ago that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip was imminent, it is now expected to come after President Biden's visit to Israel.
Israel says it is going to show the president how it plans to try to carry out the ground incursion without causing significant civilian casualties. President Biden is also expected to advance discussions to try to secure the release of hostages abducted by Hamas.
The Israeli military said it has fired missiles into Gaza. Gazan officials say 2,800 have died and over 10,000 have been wounded from those air missiles.
President Biden's visit comes after 1,400 people in Israel were killed by Hamas militants, including 30 Americans.
"The president will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "President Biden will again make clear, as he’s done unequivocally since Hamas’s slaughter of more than 1,400 people, including at least 30 Americans, that Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and to prevent future attacks."
President Biden will enter Israel amid a dicey security situation. In recent days, Blinken had to shelter in place, like many people in Israel, as air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv.
The U.S. has promised to back the Israel Defense Forces. The U.S. has two carrier strike groups, the USS Gerald Ford and the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, en route. There are also 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe on standby to assist in non-combat roles.
The U.S. considers Israel its strongest Middle East ally, but has expressed concerns that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip could cause humanitarian issues.
"To that end, today, and at our request, the United States and Israel have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza — and them alone — including the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians out of harm’s way. It is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible," Blinken said.
“He’ll be asking some tough questions," said John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications on the National Security Council, on Biden's plans while in Israel. "He'll be asking them as a friend, as a true friend of Israel, but he will be asking some questions of them. He's also going to make it clear that we continue to want to see this conflict not widen, not expand, not deepen."
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