- US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is to push Israeli officials to define milestones for its war with Hamas during a visit next week. A rift is opening between Israel and the US, with President Biden this week warning Israel was losing support due to its bombardment of Gaza.
- An air strike on Jabalya, northern Gaza, killed at least 24 people Sunday, a Hamas-controlled ministry said, with others feared buried under rubble. Israel has been bombarding targets across the territory in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks.
- The Israeli spy chief and the Qatari PM held positive talks on hostages Friday, sources said. The meeting was arranged prior to the accidental killing of three Israeli hostages by the Israeli military.
- UN aid trucks are set to enter Gaza directly from Israeli territory on Sunday, for the first time since the attack by Hamas on October 7. The trucks will be transferred directly to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom goods crossing.
- Here’s how to help humanitarian efforts in Israel and Gaza.
US defense secretary to press Israel to define war milestones
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will push Israeli officials to define milestones for its war against Hamas in Gaza, marking the second visit of a top Biden administration official to the region aimed at communicating US expectations to Israel as civilian casualties mount.
During his visit on Monday, a senior defense official said Austin will “receive specific updates on how the War Cabinet Minister of Defense [Yoav] Gallant and the Israel Defense Forces assess their progress in the current phase of the campaign in Gaza to dismantle the military infrastructure of Hamas.”
Austin, the official added, will press Israeli officials on “what metrics they’re looking at in order to transition to the next phase of their campaign in Gaza,” noting that he will work to “drill down” on efforts to increase humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and also work to mitigate harm to civilians.
The trip comes days after President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Tel Aviv that Israel intends to transition to a new phase of war that is focused on “more precise ways” of targeting Hamas leadership.
Austin will specifically press Israeli leaders on how to move through the different phases of its campaign in Gaza.
“Their security establishment, I think is assessing those conditions and their progress against those conditions on an hourly, if not daily, basis. And Secretary Austin will want to hear a very clear articulation of their self-assessment when he’s there on Monday,” the official said, adding that the US is there “to consult and ensure that there is planning taking place” for a transition to a phase when major ground operations cease.
Monday’s trip marks Austin’s second visit to Israel since the October 7 attacks.
The secretary will also make stops in Bahrain and Qatar this week, continuing efforts to shore up US relationships in the region.
Among the topics of discussion in Bahrain, the officials said, is continued aggression in the Red Sea from Iran-backed Houthis rebel who have carried out a spate of attacks on shipping in the area.