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Harris to meet Israeli minister Benny Gantz to discuss temporary Gaza cease-fire

Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, second right, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 8.
Mark Schiefelbein
/
AP
Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, second right, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 8.

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday, as the U.S. looks to secure a temporary cease-fire deal to bring in more humanitarian aid into Gaza and for hostages to be released, a White House official said.

"The vice president will reiterate civilian casualties must be reduced," the official said. Harris also plans to express concern for the safety of people in Rafah, and "the importance of creating a hopeful political horizon for the Palestinian people," the official added.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan will also attend the White House meeting, the official said.

Additionally, Gantz plans to meet with Democratic and Republican members of Congress during his visit, his office said in a press release.

The former Israeli military chief's visit threatens to worsen his relations with political rival Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An Israeli source with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly told NPR that Netanyahu was upset at Gantz for arranging the Washington trip without his knowledge.

In the immediate wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, President Biden was strongly supportive of what he said was Israel's right to defend itself. But as the civilian death toll in Gaza has climbed, Biden has gone public with criticism of Netanyahu's military response. Last month, Biden said the response had been "over the top" and he has also said Netanyahu's government risked losing global support over its action in the territory.

The Hamas-led attack killed some 1,200 people and took some 240 people hostage, according to Israeli officials. Israel's response has killed more than 30,300 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health ministry.

The U.S. began air-dropping desperately needed aid over the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Getting aid to Gaza has proved difficult, due to ongoing fighting and poor coordination with the Israeli military.

On Thursday, 115 people were killed after Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians trying to get food from an aid convoy entering Gaza City, according to Gaza health authorities. Israel said dozens of people were run over by trucks or trampled as they crowded around the aid convoy and says its soldiers opened fire when crowds moved toward its forces and put them in danger. Many if not most of those injured have gunshot wounds, according to officials at hospitals treating victims.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emma Bowman