Israel-Hamas war rages as crisis in Gaza deepens: Live updates

4:18 a.m. ET, October 18, 2023

Biden to meet with Netanyahu, President Herzog, first responders and families of victims

US President Joe Biden aims to ask “tough questions” but emphasize his relationship as a “true friend of Israel” as he meets with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, according to a US National Security Council spokesperson.

Biden will start his visit by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by a broader meeting with Israel’s war cabinet, NSC spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Air Force One.

“He’ll be asking some tough questions,” Kirby said, including about about “where they think they’re going.”

“He’ll be asking as a friend, a true friend of Israel,” Kirby added. 

According to Kirby, Biden plans to emphasize he doesn’t want the conflict to widen. He also aims to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and raise the issue of hostages, Kirby said.  

During his visit, Biden is scheduled to meet with Israeli first responders as well as the families of victims and people still missing or taken hostage, though Kirby couldn’t say if these were families of Americans or Israelis.

Biden will also deliver remarks and meet with Israeli President Herzog before his departure.

On his flight home, Biden plans to speak with Palestinian Authority President  Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President El-Sisi on the flight home, in lieu of the scheduled summit in Jordan, which was scrapped after Tuesday’s deadly hospital blast in Gaza. 

Some context: Biden’s arrival in wartime Tel Aviv marks his most forceful public show of support for Israel since the October 7 attacks by Hamas that left 1,400 Israelis – and dozens of Americans – dead. Other Americans, along with many Israelis, are also being held hostage by Hamas. And at least 3,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the fighting began, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Tuesday.

Biden’s visit came less than a day after a horrifying blast at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian officials have said hundreds are dead following the explosion at the center of the city and blamed Israel. The Israelis denied responsibility and pinned blame on a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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