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Biden's remarks in Tel Aviv affirm U.S. support for Israel

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

President Biden has been in Israel the past few hours meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Israel's war cabinet and also with first responders and families of victims of last week's Hamas attack. Following those meetings, the president had this to say.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My message to any state or any other hostile actor thinking about attacking Israel remains the same as it was a week ago - don't, don't, don't.

MARTÍNEZ: This comes as tensions in countries around the region are spilling out into street protests and clashes with security forces. That's after yesterday's explosion at a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds. Several hundred people were killed, and Israel is blaming a rocket from Gaza militants that fell short. Palestinians and much of the Arab world blame Israel. Biden, though, spoke of a new package of U.S. aid for Palestinians.

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BIDEN: Today, I'm also announcing $100 million in new U.S. funding for humanitarian assistance in both Gaza and the West Bank. This money will support more than 1 million displaced and conflict-affected Palestinians, including emergency needs in Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Michele Kelemen is at Amman, Jordan. She joins us now. Michele, so what was President Biden intending to do on this trip?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Well, there was a lot of pressure on him to use his influence with Israel to get aid into Gaza and open up some sort of safe areas for civilians. So that was one goal. He was also trying to get a better sense of Israel's endgame there.

You know, and it was interesting, A, to hear him talk about America's own experiences after 9/11 when he said the U.S. made mistakes. He said that he understands the rage in Israel over the Hamas attacks, which he said were like 15 9/11s. But he said Israelis should not be consumed by that rage. The choices are never easy or clear, President Biden cautioned. There are costs, and you have to be deliberate. And those words come as Israel prepares for a ground invasion into Gaza and faces a backlash in the region for the rising Palestinian death toll.

MARTÍNEZ: That hospital explosion, Michele - what's the U.S. saying about that?

KELEMEN: Yeah. Well, President Biden said that according to the information he has - and this is what he said came from U.S. Defense Department officials - it was, as he put it, the other team. Israeli officials have said that it was the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that launched the rocket inside Gaza and that the rocket failed and caused the explosion. The Palestinians say it was an Israeli airstrike, and they're demanding an end to the Israeli bombardment.

The U.S. has not pushed for a cease-fire in this. The U.S. says that Israel has a right to go after Hamas after that unprecedented attack a week and a half ago. But again, President Biden is, you know, urging some caution and more consideration.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. The whole situation there is just awful. What are the U.S. and the West trying to do here?

KELEMEN: Well, as I said, they are trying to get some aid in, and there's been aid piling up on the Egypt side of the border crossing, the Rafah crossing. Secretary Blinken, in the run-up to Biden's trip, has been trying to negotiate a deal with the Israelis to allow that aid in. President Biden said they agreed to that, and the aid will move as soon as possible, but we've been hearing that for a week and a half, and none of that aid has moved. And there are still Palestinian Americans trapped inside Gaza who have not been able to leave through Rafah. The Egyptians say they want the aid to move in first.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen in Amman, Jordan. Michele, thanks.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.