Kirby: Netanyahu said Israel-Gaza Kerem Shalom crossing likely to be opened to aid

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a press briefing on December 13, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a press briefing on December 13, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)

WASHINGTON — During his meeting earlier today at the White House with family members of American hostages held in Gaza, US President Joe Biden promised to keep them in the loop regarding efforts to bring about the hostages’ return, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says during a press briefing.

“The president is very grateful for the time that they afforded him. He was moved by their stories, by the love they feel, by the hope they still harbor and he harbors that hope too, and he… is acting on that,” Kirby says, donning a dog tag with the phrase “Bring them home now” that has been a symbol of the campaign for the hostages’ release.

Kirby reiterates that Hamas still holds young women hostage “in violation of the deal it negotiated in Doha.”

“We know what they have proven capable of doing to young women,” he says, referring to the mounting evidence of sexual violence by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

He again insists that a unilateral ceasefire with Hamas “is not the answer,” but that Hamas could end the war if it released the hostages, surrendered those responsible for the October 7 attacks and threw down their weapons.

“If they really cared about the Palestinian people the way they claimed to, they would do this. That they haven’t done it speaks volumes,” Kirby says.

In the meantime, the US continues its efforts to expand the flow of humanitarian aid into the Strip and reduce harm to civilians. Kirby says the US is in talks with Israel and the UN about the establishment of more corridors in order to facilitate the flow of aid along with “brief daily pauses” in the fighting to allow civilians to access the assistance.

He claims Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier today that Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing will likely be reopened for the entry of aid to Gaza and that the topic will be on the agenda when National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan arrives in Israel tomorrow for meetings with top government officials.

“This will be the first direct entry of aid from Israel into Gaza since the 7th of October, so it’s not insignificant,” Kirby says. “The pending opening of Kerem Shalom is one example of what’s to come out of there, but there needs to be more.”

He then comments on the harsh criticism voiced yesterday by Biden regarding Israel losing international support for its war against Hamas due to the IDF’s “indiscriminate” bombing in Gaza.

“The president yesterday reflected the reality of global opinion, which also matters. Our support for Israel is not diminished, but we have had concerns and we have expressed those concerns about the prosecution of this military campaign, even while acknowledging that it is Hamas that started this and that it’s Hamas that is continuing it,” Kirby says.

“We are seeing them act on that intent [to reduce civilian casualties] in positive ways,” Kirby says, pointing to a reduction in airstrikes as the IDF has moved further south into Gaza where it is relying more on ground troops, “which allows you to be more precise.”

Most Popular