US defense chief arrives in Israel ahead of meeting with Netanyahu, Gallant

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Secretary for Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a media conference following his meeting with Lithuanian officials at the Defense Ministry in Vilnius, Lithuania, Feb. 19, 2022. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)
US Secretary for Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a media conference following his meeting with Lithuanian officials at the Defense Ministry in Vilnius, Lithuania, Feb. 19, 2022. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Lloyd Austin lands at Ben Gurion Airport ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the Kan news broadcaster reports.

Netanyahu is scheduled to take off for Rome at 2 p.m., but that timeline seems highly unlikely.

Instead of Jerusalem or the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Austin’s meetings will be held at Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters, adjacent to the airport.

There is heavy congestion at the entrance to the airport as a convoy of protesters blocks the area.

Protest heads have specifically called for demonstrators to block roads around Ben Gurion Airport when Netanyahu and his wife are scheduled to depart on their flight to Italy early this afternoon.

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