The Pentagon said Thursday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.
Austin is currently in Brussels, attending a meeting of NATO member nations’ defense ministers.
In its announcement, the Pentagon did not specify whether Austin would travel to Israel for his Friday meeting with the Prime Minister. However, Austin’s meeting would be the second by one of President Biden’s cabinet secretaries with Netanyahu since Israel officially declared war on Hamas on Sunday, one day after the terrorist organization’s massive surprise attack on Israel.
On Thursday Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, during which he reiterated the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, telling the Prime Minister during a joint address, “We will always be there by your side.”
From NATO headquarters on Thursday, Sec. Austin stated that the U.S. was placing no conditions on security assistance to Israel, saying, “This is a professional military, led by professional leadership, and we would hope and expect that they would do the right things in the prosecution of their campaign.”
That statement from Austin came after Netanyahu declared a “complete seige” of Gaza, cutting off electricity, food, fuel and water in the territory, and Israel’s Energy Minister said there would be no humanitiarian break in the blockade until all hostages taken by Hamas are freed.
Hamas is holding as many as 150 people hostage in locations across Gaza, according to the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Hamas has threatened to execute a hostage every time an Israeli airstrike hits Gazans in their homes.
Already the first tranche of U.S. munitions was delivered to an Israeli airbase Tuesday evening, and the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group has deployed to the eastern Mediterranean. According to Blinken, it’s the “world’s largest aircraft carrier group.”