US expects Israel to take ‘immediate steps’ to protect Gaza aid workers

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

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House in Washington, DC, April 4, 2024. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)
White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House in Washington, DC, April 4, 2024. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

The Biden administration expects Israel to take immediate steps to protect Gaza aid workers, even before it completes its investigation into the strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy earlier this week.

“We want to see that, even as the Israelis work their investigation, that they are willing and able to take practical, immediate steps to protect workers on the ground and to demonstrate that they have that civilian harm mitigation in place,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says during a press briefing, adding that “we expect to see some announcements of changes in coming hours and days.”

The White House readout on a call earlier today between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the US president told the Israeli prime minister that he would determine Washington’s policy regarding the Gaza war based on Israel’s implementation of a series of steps to protect civilians in the Strip.

Kirby goes further with the threat, telling reporters that if Israel fails to boost aid and reduce violence against civilians in Gaza, “there will have to be changes from our side.”

“Absent any movement on a ceasefire that will allow hostages to get out and more aid to get in… [Biden] will have to have to reconsider his own policy choices with respect to Gaza,” Kirby added.

Asked what kinds of concrete steps the White House would like to see from Israel, Kirby says the opening of additional crossings and an increase in the number of aid trucks getting into Gaza, including from Jordan.

The White House spokesperson acknowledges that there has “been growing frustration” from Biden at Netanyahu for failing to heed the president’s warnings.

He says the roughly 30-minute call was “very direct” and “very businesslike,” adding that it was scheduled as a result of the WCK strike.

The leaders also discussed  “a very public and very viable real threat by Iran to Israel’s security and I will leave it at that,” Kirby said days after an alleged Israeli strike on an Iranian mission in Syria that killed a top IRGC official.

Kirby says US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan were also patched into the Biden-Netanyahu call.

 

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