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President Biden plans to visit Israel to show support for an ally against Hamas

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

We are also covering President Biden's plan for a trip to the Middle East this week. He will land in a nation at war. Israelis are battering the Gaza Strip following that deadly Hamas attack on Israel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The White House says Biden wants to reaffirm U.S. solidarity with Israel and also emphasize the need to get humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. Israel cut off food, water and electricity to more than 2 million people.

MARTÍNEZ: Earlier, I spoke with NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith. I asked her where the president is going.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Biden will go to Tel Aviv and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And there is a lot for them to discuss, starting with Israel's military strategy as they respond to those brutal attacks from Hamas. And that also includes plans to secure the safe return of hostages, including Americans, being held by Hamas. They will also talk about what Israel needs from the U.S. in terms of military assistance. And Biden also wants to talk about the situation for civilians trapped in Gaza. Kirby was asked whether Biden might require assurances on that front in exchange for military aid.

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JOHN KIRBY: We are not putting conditions on the military assistance that we are providing to Israel. They have a right to defend themselves. They have a right to go after this terrorist threat. And we're going to continue to do everything we can to help them do that.

KEITH: Kirby did emphasize that avoiding civilian casualties remains a top U.S. priority.

MARTÍNEZ: And I know the president has been talking about establishing a corridor for humanitarian aid for a few days now. Any signs at all that that might be happening?

KEITH: Yes, the administration has been pushing for this humanitarian corridor to get aid in and to help people get out, including U.S. citizens. Biden will be talking about this on his second stop in Amman, Jordan. There, he'll meet with Jordan's King Abdullah, President El-Sisi of Egypt and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Egypt controls a key part of the Gaza border but has been reluctant to open it. So Biden meeting with the Egyptian president is significant. And last night, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the president's trip to Tel Aviv, he had just come out of hours of meetings with Netanyahu. And Blinken said that the United States and Israel had agreed on aid to Gaza. Still a lot of details missing there.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, lots missing. You know, I remember back in February when President Biden went to Ukraine, it was a surprise. I mean, no one knew about it. Is it unusual for the president to announce this trip, considering Israel is at war?

KEITH: Yeah, normally, when a president visits a war zone, it is done in secrecy. And as you say, when Biden went to Ukraine, he took a 10-hour train ride to get to Kyiv with virtually no one in the world knowing about it until he was there. But this trip is very much out in the open. The White House says that Kyiv is and was under a risk of bombardment in a way that Israel and especially Tel Aviv are not. We expect Biden will only be on the ground for a few hours, but it will be long enough for him, who believes in the value of face-to-face meetings, to have these conversations about difficult issues. Obviously, there are political benefits at home. Americans are behind the idea of showing strong support for Israel. Also, I'll note that Biden's trip to Kyiv has already been featured in a campaign ad for his reelection.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. 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.