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Kamala Harris expresses ‘deep concern’ for Gaza civilians as she meets with Netanyahu critic Benny Gantz a day after VP called for ceasefire between Israel and Hamas


U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris expressed her ‘deep concern’ for the citizens of Gaza on Monday as she urged Israel to craft a ‘credible’ humanitarian plan before conducting major military activities in Rafah.

Harris held a meeting with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz, a centrist political rival who joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government early in the war following Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Harris also pressed Israel to take more measures to get aid into Gaza, reiterating a sharp message delivered on Sunday where she called conditions in the coastal enclave ‘inhumane.’

‘The Vice President and Minister Gantz discussed the situation in Rafah and the need for a credible and implementable humanitarian plan prior to contemplating any major military operation there given the risks to civilians,’ the White House said in a statement about the meeting.

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz, left, met with Vice President Harris in Washington Monday

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz, left, met with Vice President Harris in Washington Monday 

Benny Gantz, a key member of Israel's War Cabinet and the top political rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also had a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Capitol in Washington

Benny Gantz, a key member of Israel’s War Cabinet and the top political rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also had a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Capitol in Washington

Israel last month intensified its bombardment of Rafah in Gaza’s south, where about 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Gantz, a political rival to Netanyahu, was also scheduled to have meetings with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk on Monday and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.

His visit comes as the White House ramps up pressure on Israel to protect civilians in Gaza during its war with Hamas.

Harris expressed her ‘deep concern’ about humanitarian conditions in Gaza, where Palestinian authorities say more than 30,000 have been killed under a months-long assault by Israel in retaliation for the  Hamas attacks.

The United Nations says many are on the brink of starvation.

Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble after an Israeli air strike on a house belonging to the Abu Anza family in Rafah on the Gaza Strip

Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble after an Israeli air strike on a house belonging to the Abu Anza family in Rafah on the Gaza Strip

People conduct rescue work after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip from ongoing Israeli attacks has risen to 30,500

People conduct rescue work after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip from ongoing Israeli attacks has risen to 30,500

Gantz departs the White House after meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris  in Washington, DC

Gantz departs the White House after meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris  in Washington, DC

President Joe Biden, a staunch ally of Israel, has shown increasing exasperation with the country and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured), as the deaths in Gaza increased

President Joe Biden, a staunch ally of Israel, has shown increasing exasperation with the country and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured), as the deaths in Gaza increased

She also welcomed Israel’s ‘constructive approach’ to hostage talks, the White House said.

The meeting comes as President Joe Biden and his administration face increasing pressure from his Democratic Party to back a permanent ceasefire, and push ally and military aid recipient Israel to reduce the loss of civilian life in Gaza and allow aid to flow through in greater amounts.

Harris said during a Sunday speech in Selma, Alabama, that conditions in Gaza were inhumane and amounted to a ‘humanitarian catastrophe,’ while calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Many in Biden’s party have been pushing for a ceasefire, too, and the lack of a sustained one has hurt the president politically. 

Biden, who is seeking reelection in November, has struggled with low approval ratings for much of his first term; his backing of military aid for Israel is unpopular with most Democrats, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.

In a sign of increasing desperation to get aid to Gaza residents, the U.S. military carried out its first air drop of food to Palestinians on Saturday and has plans for more.

Demonstrators block traffic during a protest calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel on Monday

Demonstrators block traffic during a protest calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel on Monday

A demonstrator uses a megaphone during a protest calling for the release of hostages

A demonstrator uses a megaphone during a protest calling for the release of hostages

Protestors blocking traffic in Tel Aviv during a call for a ceasefire deal and release of the hostages

Protestors blocking traffic in Tel Aviv during a call for a ceasefire deal and release of the hostages 

The war in Gaza began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Biden, a staunch ally of Israel, has shown increasing exasperation with the country and with Netanyahu, as the deaths in Gaza increased. 

Last week, he said Israel risked losing support from the rest of the world, a notion Netanyahu rejected.

The U.S. State Department pushed back on a suggestion that Washington saw Gantz as more of a partner than Netanyahu. 

‘We’re meeting with Benny Gantz because he’s one of three members of the war cabinet … who has a critical vote and critical stake in how this war is conducted,’ State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

A medic carries a Palestinian boy, who was wounded in an Israeli strike at Shifa hospital in Gaza

A medic carries a Palestinian boy, who was wounded in an Israeli strike at Shifa hospital in Gaza

A woman hangs clothes to dry among car wrecks in the courtyard of a UNRWA school, as Palestinians take refuge there seeking safety amid Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza

A woman hangs clothes to dry among car wrecks in the courtyard of a UNRWA school, as Palestinians take refuge there seeking safety amid Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza

Palestinians are walking as they flee further south from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip

Palestinians are walking as they flee further south from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip

People flee from their homes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on Monday

People flee from their homes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on Monday

Harris said on Monday she and Biden were aligned on Israeli policy after her sharp remarks.

The vice president’s meeting with Gantz is a signal that the administration is willing to work all angles on the issue within the Israeli government. 

Gantz leads a centrist party but joined right-wing Netanyahu’s emergency cabinet last year as a show of unity against the threat facing Israel from Hamas.

Harris had tough words for Hamas on Sunday, too, but focused most of her sharp language on Israel over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The air drop, which the administration called a success, was the latest sign that Washington is moving beyond diplomacy with Israel, which the U.N. and other relief agencies complain has blocked or restricted aid. 

Israel denies putting any restrictions on humanitarian aid.

Gantz, a member of Israel's War Cabinet, talks to the media after a meeting at the Capitol

Gantz, a member of Israel’s War Cabinet, talks to the media after a meeting at the Capitol

Protesters gather outside of the White House in Washington on Monday while Vice President Kamala Harris met with Chairman of The National Unity Party Benny Gantz

Protesters gather outside of the White House in Washington on Monday while Vice President Kamala Harris met with Chairman of The National Unity Party Benny Gantz

The protestors were all anti-Israel and wish to see an end to the war in Gaza

The protestors were all anti-Israel and wish to see an end to the war in Gaza

On Friday, the administration said it was also considering opening a humanitarian marine corridor into Gaza.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist who ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary but has supported him since, urged the administration to halt funding for Israel if it did not let more aid in.

‘Israel MUST open the borders and allow the United Nations to deliver supplies in sufficient quantities. The United States should make clear that failure to do so immediately will lead to a fundamental break in the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the immediate halt of all military aid,’ he said in a statement on Friday.

The U.S. is Israel’s most important foreign arms provider. It gives Israel $3.8 billion in military aid annually, and U.S. leaders have proposed more in aid since the October 7 attacks.



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