President Joe Biden on Monday weighed an invitation to visit close US ally Israel to show support as it wages war against Hamas, abruptly canceling a domestic political trip to meet with his national security team.
Biden, 80, was due to visit Colorado to push his 2024 reelection campaign but stayed at the White House at the last minute for briefings amid mounting fears the conflict could spread.
The White House confirmed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had invited Biden following the deadly October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, but said there were no travel plans yet.
The timing of any visit would be highly sensitive, with Israel gearing up for a ground invasion of Hamas-ruled Gaza and pummeling it with air and artillery strikes that the health ministry says have killed at least 2,750 people.
A trip to Israel would also pose security risks. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was taken to a bunker after air raid sirens went off as he visited Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were “briefed by their national security team on the latest updates in the wake of Hamas’s abhorrent attack in Israel and the resulting conflict in Gaza,” the White House said.
CIA chief Bill Burns, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan led the briefing, which was also joined by Biden’s chief of staff, Jeff Zients, it said, releasing a picture on social media of the group sitting in the Oval Office.
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Biden has repeatedly pledged strong support for close US ally Israel but has also increasingly stressed the need to protect civilians amid the Israeli bombardment and siege of Gaza.
Biden also spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday and they agreed on the need to “not allow the circle of conflict to expand,” the Egyptian presidency said.
They also discussed “protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier spoke to both Netanyahu and Sisi on the situation, the Kremlin said.
Israel has ruled out a temporary ceasefire to let aid in or foreigners out of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, the only one not controlled by Israel.
The White House said Biden, in addition to his call with Sisi, spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is due to visit Egypt and Israel, as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby earlier confirmed US reports that Netanyahu had asked Biden to come to Israel.
“With respect to Israel, there was an invitation from the prime minister, but again — no travel to speak to right now,” Kirby told CNN.
Democrat Biden and right-wing leader Netanyahu once had rocky relations, but partly patched up relations in New York in September — and since the Hamas attacks Biden has offered nothing but support.
The United States has also dispatched two aircraft carriers to the region, while Biden has warned Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah against getting involved.
Biden had been due to travel to Colorado to visit a wind turbine plant to tout the economic revival and pro-environmental messages at the core of his 2024 reelection campaign.
The visit would be rescheduled, the White House said.
Biden visited another war zone — Ukraine, which was invaded by Putin’s Russia — in a high-risk trip in February that was prepared in total secrecy. He last visited Israel in July 2022.
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