Biden to speak to Netanyahu after Israeli strike on World Central Kitchen aid workers

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since Israeli military strikes killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers earlier this week.

Biden intends to convey his anger over the incident to Netanyahu during their conversation, a U.S. official said.

The call between the two leaders was arranged after the strike occurred, said a separate U.S. official, who described Biden as being “very angry” about the incident.

The president’s anger is “indicative of the broader problem of how the Israelis are conducting their operations,” for “either not passing on to their military the deconfliction details from World Central Kitchen, or they’re being received and ignored,” the official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to join the call, though it will likely be remotely because she’s traveling to North Carolina on Thursday.

The seven workers killed in the strike on Monday included a dual U.S.-Canada citizen, according to chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. Biden called Andrés “to express that he’s heartbroken” over their deaths, the White House said on Tuesday.

Israel said it didn’t intend to target and kill the humanitarian aid workers, but the charity said that its team had coordinated its movements with the Israel Defense Forces and that they were traveling in a “deconflicted zone” in vehicles that included two armored cars branded with the World Central Kitchen logo.

After the attack, the nonprofit organization said it was immediately pausing operations in the region.

Biden and Netanyahu last spoke by phone on March 18. In that call, Biden warned the Israeli leader against authorizing a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Top U.S. and Israeli officials held a virtual meeting Monday to discuss Israel’s plans for a possible ground invasion of the city, which grew contentious after the Americans pushed back on Israel’s proposal to evacuate Palestinian civilians sheltering there, two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official familiar with the meeting said.

Israel proposed moving 1.4 million civilians from Rafah into tents north of the city, but the plan didn’t include addressing sanitation, food and water needs or sourcing for most of the tents, the officials said.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close Biden ally, came out for the first time Thursday in support of putting conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel if it decides to go into Rafah without making provisions to protect civilians or provide humanitarian aid. “I think we’re at that point,” he said in an interview on CNN.

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said the U.S. should stop funding Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

The Biden administration “has a responsibility to stop financing the Netanyahu government’s strategy, which has so disproportionately killed civilians, aid workers, and medical personnel, used food as a weapon, and that has no vision to establish a viable, independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel,” he said.

Meanwhile, Biden met with members of the Muslim community at the White House on Tuesday. One of the participants, Salima Suswell, the founder of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, told NBC News that the president told the group that first lady Jill Biden has been privately urging him to end the war between Israel and Hamas.

Biden made the remark after a doctor who had been treating injured people in Gaza told the president that his wife didn’t want him to join the meeting. Biden shared that he could relate and that the first lady had told him, “Stop it, stop it now,” Suswell said. The New York Times first reported the comments.

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