Following a clear warning from its ally the United States, Israel has decided to take “immediate steps” to increase humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The war cabinet has decided to temporarily open the port of Ashdod and the Erez border crossing for aid deliveries, the Israeli newspapers Haaretz and Times of Israel reported, citing a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

This will make it easier for help to reach northern Gaza, which is particularly affected by food shortages. Aid coming from Jordan via the Kerem Shalom border crossing will also be increased, it said. The USA welcomed the announcement – and at the same time is pushing for an agreement to release the hostages in Gaza.

According to a media report, negotiations will take place in Cairo this weekend. Meanwhile, threats from Iran against Israel are fueling concerns about an escalation of tensions in the Middle East. Netanyahu threatened consequences if Iran attacked his country.

USA: Israel’s announced steps must be implemented quickly

According to the White House, US President Joe Biden called on Netanyahu in a phone call yesterday to take a series of “specific, concrete and measurable steps” to reduce the suffering for the people of Gaza and increase the protection of aid workers. Future US policy on Gaza depends on how Israel implements these measures, Biden warned.

Later, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the U.S. welcomed “the steps announced by the Israeli government this evening at the request of the President following his conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu.” They must now be “implemented fully and quickly”.

International cooperation

They are prepared to ensure, in coordination with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, “that these important steps are implemented and that in the coming days and weeks significantly more humanitarian aid will be provided to the suffering civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip achieved,” Watson continued.

“This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is essential to ensure the continuation of the fighting and achieve the goals of the war,” Haaretz quoted the Israeli statement as saying early this morning.

At the beginning of the week, seven employees of the aid organization World Central Kitchen were killed in an air strike by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip. After the incident, US President Biden expressed “outrage” and openly accused Israel of not adequately protecting humanitarian workers and civilians. Biden did not accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s objection that the attack was not intentional – he countered: “This is not an isolated case.”

Report: New negotiation push for hostage agreement

In the phone call, Biden also called on Netanyahu to “immediately” conclude an agreement to bring back the hostages held by Hamas. As the usually well-informed Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reported in the news portal “Axios”, citing two sources familiar with the matter, CIA Director Bill Burns is now scheduled to hold talks this weekend with the head of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, and senior officials Representatives of Qatar and Egypt travel to Cairo to secure their release.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote that he “welcomes the US’s clarification that a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is conditional on the release of the abductees.” Israel will continue to work with its allies to protect Israel’s right to “continue the war until the abductees are released and Hamas is defeated,” Katz said.

For weeks, the USA, Qatar and Egypt have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in order to achieve a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages kidnapped from Israel for Palestinian prisoners. According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 people abducted by Hamas are still alive.

Concern about Iran’s retaliatory attack against Israel

Meanwhile, Netanyahu threatened consequences if Iran attacked his country. “For years, Iran has been acting against us, both directly and through its proxies; that is why Israel is acting against Iran and its proxies, defensively and offensively,” Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting of Israel’s security cabinet, his office said.

“We will know how to defend ourselves and we will act according to the simple principle: whoever harms us or plans to harm us, we will harm them too,” he said. Israel’s government and the United States are very concerned that Iran is preparing for an imminent attack, the Axios news portal quoted American and Israeli officials as saying.

Iran announced retaliation after an airstrike allegedly carried out by Israel’s military on an Iranian embassy building in Syria’s capital Damascus that left several people dead. Two brigadier generals and five other members of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard were killed in Monday’s attack. The Revolutionary Guards are Iran’s elite armed forces and are considered more powerful than the conventional armed forces.

USA pledges support to Israel

Yesterday’s Iranian threats against Israel were also brought up in the phone call between Biden and Netanyahu. According to the White House, Biden made it clear that the USA supports Israel in the face of these threats.

U.S. support for Israel to defend itself against a range of threats remains “unwavering,” National Security Council communications director John Kirby said in Washington. Israel has told the US as an ally that if Iran were to launch an attack from its soil on Israel in retaliation for the deadly attack in Syria, it would face a strong response from Israel and this would take the current conflict to another level , Axios quoted Israeli officials as saying. The US government also believes that Israel was responsible for the attack in Syria. The Israeli side did not comment on the incident.

Iran: funeral procession for revolutionary guards

In Iran, amid military tensions, thousands of government supporters have taken to the streets in anti-Israel demonstrations. At the same time as the protests on the occasion of the so-called Al-Kuds Day, a funeral procession began for the members of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) killed in Syria. Eyewitnesses reported thousands of supporters. The protests were accompanied by calls for retaliation. Hundreds of thousands of government supporters traditionally gather at the Quds demonstrations every year.

The state-organized Kuds rallies, introduced in 1979 by the then Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, always take place on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. The country’s spiritual and political leadership calls for the conquest of Jerusalem. The background is the occupation of the eastern part of Jerusalem by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Al-Kuds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

Israeli army spokesman: No need to hoard food

Israel’s military spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed that the country’s GPS positioning system had been deliberately disrupted the day before in order to “neutralize threats.” He did not provide any information about where exactly this happened. Israeli media cited threats from Iran as a suspected reason. Meanwhile, Hagari wrote on the X platform (formerly Twitter) that there was no need to buy generators, store food and withdraw money from ATMs.

In view of the security situation, Israel has temporarily stopped vacations in all combat units. “The Israeli army is at war and the formation of the armed forces is constantly being adjusted according to needs,” the military said. The decision was made in accordance with an assessment of the situation. It remained unclear whether this referred to the new tensions with Iran or the situation in the Gaza war. The army had previously announced that it would mobilize reservists for missile defense.