Biden says Israel is doing what he demanded on Gaza after his stark warning to Netanyahu


(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden said Friday that Israel is responding to his demand for actions to limit humanitarian suffering in Gaza — changes the White House said need to be “meaningful” in order for Israel to avoid a change in U.S. support.

“I asked them to do what they’re doing,” Biden said when asked by a reporter if he had threatened to stop U.S. military aid to Israel. Biden spoke as he left the White House to survey the wreckage from last week’s bridge collapse in Baltimore.

It was his first on-camera comment on his tense phone call Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which Biden warned the U.S. would reconsider its policy approach if Israel didn’t take concrete steps to better protect civilians and aid workers after Israeli strikes killed seven food relief workers with the World Central Kitchen.

Hours after the conversation, Israel said it will open the Erez crossing on the northern border of Gaza with Israel as well as allow temporary delivery of aid through the Ashdod port, where most aid comes through and is then trucked to Erez, so more humanitarian assistance can cross into Gaza. Israel also said it would increase the amount of Jordanian aid coming in through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Earlier Friday, White House spokesman Kirby was pressed by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos if the changes announced so far by Israel were enough to meet Biden’s demands.

“Well, we’re going to have to watch and see where they go from here, George,” Kirby responded on “Good Morning America,” calling the actions taken overnight “good starts.”

“But we’ve got to see them execute and implement those things over time,” the National Security Council spokesman said, saying Biden was clear with Netanyahu that the U.S. needs to see “meaningful changes.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a similar message as he spoke at a U.S.-European Union Trade and Technology Council news conference in Belgium on Friday.

“These are positive developments, but the real test is results and that’s what we’re looking to see in the coming days and in the coming weeks,” Blinken said, adding the U.S. would specifically be watching the number of aid trucks allowed into Gaza on a sustained basis and whether food insecurity measurements are reversed. International organizations have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in particular over food insecurity.

But officials continued to decline to state what specific consequences Israel would face if it doesn’t meet U.S. requests, like whether the U.S. would consider conditioning military aid to Israel.

“I wouldn’t close down decision space for the president but he was very clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Kirby said on “GMA.” “We’ve got to see some changes. We’ve got to see the humanitarian situation improve in Gaza or otherwise we will have to take a look at our own policy and make decisions and change the way that we’re supporting Israel.”

US reviewing the IDF’s World Central Kitchen report

Another development Friday was the Israel Defense Forces’ release of a report on its investigation into the World Central Kitchen incident. Seven aid workers were killed in multiple strikes as their convoy traveled along a humanitarian route in central Gaza, despite their movements having been coordinated with the IDF.

The IDF admitted there was a “misjudgment” made on the evening of the strikes in violation of their standard procedures, including the misidentification of an aid worker as a Hamas gunman and misclassification of the event. Two IDF commanders were fired as a result.

World Central Kitchen, in a statement Friday, was highly critical of the report. The food charity, led by chef José Andrés, said the IDF can’t “credibly investigate its own failures in Gaza” and again called for an independent investigation.

Kirby, who also appeared on NBC’s “Today” program on Friday, said the U.S. would defer judgment on whether there should be an independent commission until they examine the initial findings by Israel.

“We’re going to work our way through that investigation ourselves and take a look and see what we think of their findings and conclusions before we make any judgment going forward,” Kirby said.

He continued, “This is an agency of the Israeli government that has conducted independent investigations before. … They’ve done this responsibly in the past but we’ll reserve judgment until we have a chance to go through those findings.”

Leaving Belgium, Blinken also said the administration was reviewing the document carefully and would discuss its conclusions with Israeli officials and aid organizations.

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable,” Blinken said. “Even more important is making sure that steps are taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

Before the report’s release, however, Blinken had said it was “critical” there be “an independent, thorough, fully publicized investigation into the killing of the World Central Kitchen team.”

The World Central Kitchen incident, he said, was part of a “larger challenge that we’ve seen throughout [the conflict] which is the horrific number of children, women, men — innocent children, women, and men — who have been killed through the course of the military operations.”

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. More than 1,200 people were killed in Israel when Hamas launched a surprise terror attack on Oct. 7, according to Israeli authorities.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford, Chris Boccia, Ellie Kaufman and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

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