Friday, December 8, 2023

CENTCOM head arrives in Israel ahead of Biden’s trip

The head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) has arrived in Israel to meet with the Israeli military chief of staff, according to a CENTCOM statement.

Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla’s goal is to better understand Israel’s defense requirements and outline US support during the conflict, the statement said.

US Central Command did not say how long Kurilla would stay in Israel. His visit comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is conducting shuttle diplomacy in the region, including a nearly eight-hour long meeting with Israel’s war cabinet.

Diplomatic efforts to address the crisis are intensifying, with US President Joe Biden also scheduled to visit Israel Wednesday.
Blinken announced in the early hours Tuesday in Israel that Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday.

Blinken announced the visit at the end of a more than seven-hour long meeting with Israel’s war cabinet. The secretary of state’s latest stop in Israel is part of his whirlwind seven-nation tour of the Middle East as Israel seems poised for a ground invasion of Gaza and the conflict threatens to spill into other parts of the region.

During his visit to Israel, Biden “will hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas,” Blinken stated.

Biden “will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security” in his visit Wednesday, Blinken added.

“President Biden will again make clear, as he’s done unequivocally since the Hamas 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.”

Biden will hear what Israel needs to defend his people as “we continue to work with Congress to meet those needs,” he continued.

Biden “will underscore our crystal clear message to any actor, state or non-state, trying to take advantage of this crisis to attack Israel: Don’t,” Blinken said, noting the deterrent measures the US has already undertaken.

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,” Blinken added.

“President Biden will receive a comprehensive brief on Israel’s war aims and strategy,” the top US diplomat stressed.

In addition to visiting Israel on Wednesday, the president will also visit Jordan — a nearby crucial ally to the US. There he’ll meet with a critical group of Middle East leaders including King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the White House.

John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters that the focus of Biden’s Jordan stop will be on humanitarian assistance amid the deepening crisis.

Kirby said Biden “will certainly reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. And he’ll discuss again the humanitarian needs of all civilians in Gaza.”

In Amman, Biden will “make it clear that we want to continue to work with all our partners in the region, including Israel, to get humanitarian assistance and again to provide some sort of safe passage for civilians to get out.”

The entire trip will take place “over the course of a single day,” Kirby added.

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