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October 19, 2023 12:24 PM IST

US President Joe Biden returns home after visit to Israel

US President Joe Biden returned home in the early hours of Thursday, October 19 following his eight-hour visit to Israel amid a heightening crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden pledged to help Israel and the Palestinians during the lightning visit on Wednesday, October 18, but a deadly hospital blast that he ascribed to an errant rocket fired by Gaza militants derailed talks to prevent the war spreading.

He promised more aid to Israel, which is fighting Gaza to try to root out militants from its ruling Hamas group after they killed 1,400 Israelis in a cross-border assault on October 7. During Biden’s visit, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel would let food, water and medicines reach southern Gaza via Egypt.

U.S. President Joe Biden also discussed aid for Gaza with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi by phone late on Wednesday, while flying home from a less than eight-hour visit to Israel.

President Biden told reporters that Sisi agreed to open the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza to allow about 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the enclave, where people are desperately short of food, water, fuel and other essentials after Israel unleashed a blockade and air strikes 12 days ago.

President Biden did not give a timeline for the opening, but U.S. national security spokesperson John Kirby said it would occur in coming days following repairs to the road.

Amid fears the conflict could spread beyond Gaza, Biden had planned to meet Arab leaders. But Jordan called off his planned summit there with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority after the hospital blast.

(Input from Reuters)

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