(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden received a commitment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, the White House said Monday.
Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Sunday as Israeli forces expanded their ground operations in Gaza, in what it called the “second phase” of its war on Hamas after the terrorist group’s attacks earlier this month.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in that call Biden “did receive a commitment that Israelis will endeavor to support a significant increase in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, so additional trucks.”
Forty-five trucks carrying food, water and other kinds of humanitarian aid were able to make it across the Rafah border crossing on Sunday, according to the administration — well below the at least 100 trucks a day the United Nations has said is required to cover Gaza’s needs.
Kirby said a “first goal” is to get up to 100 trucks each day across the border, though he said that still wouldn’t be enough.
“So, we’re not going to let it go, we’re not going to drop it, we’re going to continue to see what we can do to increase that volume,” he said.
The administration said the U.S is closely monitoring the Middle East as Israeli troops move into Gaza, with Biden being continuously briefed as the conflict unfolds. The death toll in Gaza has climbed to over 8,300, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, authorities said at at least 1,400 people have been killed since Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7.
Kirby said while the administration is asking Israel “hard questions” about its aims in going after Hamas, it is not “lecturing” Netanyahu when discussing the need for Israel to follow the rules of war.
“It’s something that even the prime minister brings up in the conversation,” with Biden, he told reporters. “That they both recognize that as democracies it’s important to abide by the law of war to protect innocent life and to try to minimize civilian casualties.”
While aid has been allowed to move from Rafah into Gaza, the corridor remains closed to foreign nationals who want to flee the Palestinian territory, including 500 to 600 Americans, the U.S. State Department has said. Kirby had no updates on securing a passage for people to leave Gaza.
State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said for the first time Monday that Hamas was making “a number of demands” for opening Rafah gate to foreign nationals.
“I’m not going to speak to those demands, but it’s something we’re continuing to try to work through,” he told reporters.
Miller also said the U.S. encouraged Israel to reopen telecommunications lines in Gaza over the weekend, but that the administration could not guarantee they would not be taken down again.
“Recognizing the importance of keeping these channels open during such pivotal times, we made clear to the government of Israel over the weekend that communications networks needed to be restored and we are pleased that they took steps to do that,” Miller said. “Maintaining these channels is not just about connectivity, it is about ensuring that vital information flows, humanitarian coordination continues, and families can stay in touch.”
Kirby said the U.S. continues to support temporary, humanitarian pauses in the conflict so aid can get through and perhaps to help people leave, but that they won’t support a ceasefire.
“We do not believe that a ceasefire is the right answer right now,” Kirby said. “We believe that a ceasefire right now benefits Hamas, and Hamas is the only one that would gain from that right now as Israel continues to prosecute their operations against Hamas leadership.”
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