11:47 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Hey, everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  Kirby has a few words here at the top, and then we’ll get started.

MR. KIRBY:  Hey, everybody.  Can you hear me okay?  I’m going to hope you can hear me okay.

Look, I just wanted to reiterate some things that we’ve been saying here in the last 24 hours.  We obviously welcome the steps that were announced last night and, again, overnight by the Israeli government at the President’s request in that call with Prime Minster Netanyahu.

And these steps, as you’ve all seen, they do include a commitment to open up additional crossings into Gaza, including the Ashdod port and the Erez Crossing, and also commitments to increase the amount of aid that’s getting into Gaza.  That’s important, particularly those coming from Jordan as well.

And as we’ve also said, it’s important for those commitments to be fully realized and to be rapidly implemented. We’re obviously standing by and prepared to work in full coordination with Israel and other governments in the region, including humanitarian aid organizations, to see that these steps are implemented in a sustained way and that they do result in a significant increase in humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

So, again, we welcome these steps.  A lot of work is ahead.  And we’re prepared to continue to work, as we have, to see that these things are put in place in a sustainable way.

We also — you probably heard the Secretary of State talk about this earlier — we’re also reviewing Israel’s report of the investigation that they conducted into the World Central Kitchen team strike from a few days ago.  We’re going to take our time.  We’re going to review it carefully.  We’ll certainly be discussing the conclusions of it and our conclusions of it with Israeli officials and humanitarian aid organizations in coming days.

We note that they have held accountable a couple of officers and that they have made their findings public.  That’s important.  But again, what really matters here for us is sort of — is two things: one, that something like this does not happen again; and two, that there are concrete, verifiable, achievable, and again, sustainable changes to their processes in the way they conduct these kinds of missions so that the safety of civilians on the ground and humanitarian aid workers is top of mind and ensured.

With that, I’m happy to take some questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you. Our first question will go to Steve Holland with Reuters.

Q    Hey, John.  Thanks for that.  There’s a video of the attack being shown in Israel.  Has this been seen here at the White House?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know, Steve.  I’m not aware of that video.  And I don’t know the degree to which it’s been seen here at the White House.

Q    And the changes that Israel is — like the opening of the ports, the punishment for the two officers, is that all there is?  Or have you asked them for — did the President ask them for specific things in addition to opening up these corridors for aid?  Or are they — are you just kind of waiting to get a sense of the entire changes that they make and render a judgment on them?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said, Steve, I mean, we welcome these initial announcements of additional crossings and increased aid. We welcome the release of their investigation.  As I said, we’re still going through it, so I don’t want to get ahead of our own look at this thing.  We certainly note that they did hold a couple of officers accountable.  They said they were going to include accountability.  They have done that.  Now, whether there’ll be more as they go through this, I don’t know and I’d have to refer you to the Israeli Defense Forces to speak to that going forward.

What’s important to us — I don’t want you to get too hung up on the homework assignment that we’ve given ourselves to look at their investigation.  What’s really important to us, and Secretary Blinken said this this morning, is that these changes are verifiable and they’re sustainable and that proper steps are taken to make sure that something like the strike that happened to the World Central Kitchen a few days ago can’t happen again.

And so we’re going to be looking, in terms of strike procedures, to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to prevent another one — another mistake like that — but also, on the aid and assistance, that it also is — the changes that they are announcing, the commitments that they are making, that they hold to them and that those changes too, in terms of increased aid, are sustainable.

The third thing that we didn’t talk about yet, which is — is the negotiations going on in Cairo this coming weekend, and one of the messages that the President had for Prime Minister Netanyahu was, you know, let’s get this done, let’s get a deal in place so that we can get a ceasefire for a matter of weeks in place so that it’s easier to meet those commitments on humanitarian assistance being increased — a whole lot easier to meet those commitments you made if there is a ceasefire in place and just as critically getting the hostages home.

Q    And Burns — is Burns in Cairo for these talks?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t ever talk about the travel habits of the CIA director.  I can just tell you that the United States will be present for those talks.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Aamer with the AP.

Q    Hey there.  So, just slight variation on Steve.  Is there specific things that the President would like the Israeli government to do, in addition to what’s being done, to sort of reach these overarching goals that you speak of to make sure that this doesn’t happen again?  Is there anything more that can be done?

And then secondly, just quickly, I believe Secretary Blinken also called for an “independent, thorough, and fully publicized investigation” of the tragedy.  Who does the White House believe could be a credible authority to carry out this investigation?

MR. KIRBY:  Look, I think on the independent investigation thing — and we’ve seen Chef Andrés has called for that — we’re going to reserve — as I said yesterday, we’re going to reserve judgment on that until we’ve had a chance to see and carefully review the results of the investigation, the independent investigation that they themselves conducted.  So I’m just going to leave that there.

And as for the “more to do” — again, Aamer, I think we’ve been very open with all of you about the call yesterday and the asks that the President made.  And some of those asks were initially realized here in these announcements that the Israelis have made.

But let me just summarize — without getting into too much detail, let me just summarize them in general, and I kind of covered this with Steve.  It’s putting in place procedures and fixes so that an attack like this and a mistake like this can’t happen again.  It’s doing more to look after the safety of civilians on the ground, including aid workers, and giving them confidence — confidence-building measures so that aid organizations can continue to operate inside Gaza and feel that they can do so safely.  It’s increasing the humanitarian assistance getting in.  That means, A, opening up more crossings, and we’ve seen some announcements that have been positive over the last few hours; and B, increasing the number of trucks that get in to up over 300, and that includes increasing that flow from Jordan. 

And again, those initial steps have been announced, and we welcome that. 

And then the third big chunk here is about getting back at the table in negotiations in Cairo and getting a hostage deal done and powering his negotiators to come to a conclusion on this so that we can get the hostages home with their families where they belong.  We are coming up on six months — six months that these people have been held hostage in what we have to consider are just abhorrent conditions.  They need to be home with their families.  That also gives us a ceasefire of a matter of about six weeks, which, again, as I said earlier, would make it much easier for humanitarian assistance to flow. 

So those are the three big buckets, and I think I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Andrea Mitchell with NBC.

Q    Hi.  Thank you very much for taking the question.  I’m about to go on the air, so a quick question about the hostages.  Did the President press Prime Minister Netanyahu to try to get to yes on the hostage issues and be less specific about the demand on proportionality?  Can you get into any of the details on that?

And there does seem to be a conflict between what Secretary Blinken said and what you just said about the independent investigation.  If you could try to clarify that or take that question.  Thank you so much.

MR. KIRBY:  I did not see Secretary Blinken make a call for an independent investigation.  He said that we were — what I looked at, he said they’re reviewing — we’re reviewing Israel’s investigation carefully and that we’re going to be discussing it with the conclusions of Israeli officials and humanitarian aid organizations.  So, I have not seen that. 

And as I said, we’re going to reserve judgment on whether there needs to be another investigation based on the conclusions we come up to, looking at the one that they conducted. 

And on your first question, Andrea, the short answer is: Yes, he did urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to get to yes on negotiating — on a deal to get the hostages out and on these negotiations.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Weijia with CBS.

Q    Thank you.  And thank you, John, for taking the question.  Just to follow up on Andrea and Aamer, he did say that.  He said, “It’s also critical that we see an independent, thorough, [and] fully publicized investigation into the killing of the World Central Kitchen team…”  So if you don’t have an explanation for the discrepancy now, will you please get back to us?

MR. KIRBY:  He might have been referring — look, I’m going to refer you to the State Department.  I wasn’t with the Secretary when he made those comments, so I think you guys are asking me to comment on comments that I don’t have visibility on. 

I would just note a couple of things.  The investigation that they concluded was an independent investigation.  It was done by an agency of the Israeli government that does not report directly to the IDF chain of command.  It’s sort of akin to our own inspector general reports that you guys are very familiar with.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s close to that.  That was an independent investigation. 

And we are now going through that ourselves.  And as far as a third independent investigation — in other words, something outside the Israeli government, which is what I know Chef Andrés has called for — we’re going to reserve our judgment based on our conclusions on this independent investigation.

Q    And then, on the timing of the reports released, was that a coincidence, or did the President push for it to be made public during the phone call yesterday?

MR. KIRBY:  We made it clear, even before the call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that we expected — and we said so publicly — that they would conduct a thorough, complete investigation and that they would make it public, that they would be transparent about it.

Q    Did they talk about the report’s findings during the phone call?

MR. KIRBY:  Not in any specific terms.  Prime Minister Netanyahu had only just received it himself.  So he covered sort of a broad brush at the top of the conversation, sort of the general findings, but he didn’t go into great detail.

Q    Okay.  And then, finally, I know you were asked about the video earlier, but aside from that, has the administration reviewed any evidence, or have you requested to see any evidence that backs up the findings?

MR. KIRBY:  We are working our way through the investigation right now.  I’ll just leave it at that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Selina with ABC.

Q    Thanks, guys.  Thanks, Admiral.  So just to clarify what everyone has been asking, you’re not ruling out, from the White House perspective, that the U.S. could do an independent investigation?  Is that — just to clarify.

MR. KIRBY:  There are no plans for us to conduct — (audio feedback) — is that okay?  Can you hear me? 

Q    Sorry, yes, I can hear you.

MR. KIRBY:  There are no plans for the U.S. to conduct an independent investigation or a separate investigation into this event.  Guys, they just finished it, and we are just now getting a chance to look at it. 

I think it’s important to let us have the time, as Secretary Blinken said, to do this in a careful, thoughtful way.  And then we’ll reserve judgment about it once we’ve had a chance to go through it. 

It seems like there’s — well, I’ll just leave it at that.  We’re going to — we’re going do this right.  We’re going to take our time with it.  We’re going to continue to consult with the Israeli officials as we look at the investigation. 

We have seen and we’re aware of people and institutions, including Chef Andrés, who want something separate than what the Israelis have done.  We’re reserving judgment on that until we’ve had a chance to review this carefully.

Q    And you said the calls are for civilians and aid workers, for Israel to do more to protect them inside Gaza.  They’ve agreed to open a few more crossings.  Can you give any other specific examples of what this administration is looking for?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to go into more detail than what we’ve already done on that. 

And let me come back to the confusion about independent and what Secretary Blinken said.  Because I’ve been — while we’ve been talking, I’ve asked the team here to check with State.  And what I’m hearing from State is that Secretary Blinken did refer to an independent investigation, but that was before — he was referring to the one that they were working on.  And he said that before Israel came out with the report that we are now examining.

Q    And just one more question.  Any update on that meeting next week with the Israeli delegation in person on Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any updates for you.  We’re hoping to get it done in the next week or two.  It’s possible that that meeting could slide to the week after next.  We just don’t have anything firm.  But obviously — look, guys, as soon as we get something nailed down on the calendar, you know we’re going to tell you about it.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Jordan with Bloomberg.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  We have a report saying that some key Israeli policymakers have started to push back on the idea of a full-scale invasion of Rafah.  One suggested that Israel could simply surround the four remaining Hamas battalions in that area.  Is this an idea that the U.S. would support?  And was this idea of surrounding the battalions, rather than a full- scale investigation, discussed between the two leaders, or was it discussed between administration officials and the Israeli Defense Minister when he was in town earlier this week?

MR. KIRBY:  Look, we haven’t even completed the conversations with the Israelis here about Rafah.  We’re looking forward, as I just answered to Selina, in having that conversation here in coming days.  And I think you can understand we’re going to reserve our thoughts about alternatives to a ground offensive in Rafah to our private conversations with our Israeli counterparts.

As I said yesterday from the podium, the Rafah operation was not a focus of the discussion between the President and the Prime Minister.  That was really focused more on the aftermath of the strike and the implications that that strike has had on humanitarian aid organizations and their willingness to continue to operate inside Gaza and the kinds of things that we needed Israel to do.  We’ve detailed those for you as far as I’m going to detail them for you.  But that was really the — that was really the focus.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Gordon with the Wall Street Journal.

Q    Hey, John.  Thanks, Sam.  Two, kind of, clarifications, and I may have missed it from yesterday, but did the President and Netanyahu talk about the strikes in Syria?  And did the President have a message to convey when it comes to widening the conflict, or whatever, there?

And then, second thing is: You know, you mentioned that you expect — you mentioned yesterday that you expected a series of announcements from the Israelis.  I assume one of those is the results of the investigation on the WCK attack and then another one was maybe about the other gate opening.  But do you have others, do you expect, that are in train, potentially over the next day or so, on other matters?  Or no?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sorry, Gordon, I missed your first question.  Can you —

Q    The first question was: Did the President and Netanyahu talk about the Israeli strikes in Damascus?  And did the President convey any concerns about widening the conflict?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, okay.  So, on your first question, there wasn’t a specific focus on what happened in Damascus.  As I’ve said before, we had no role in that whatsoever.  That said, there was discussion between the two leaders about the very viable and, quite frankly, very public threat that Iran is making to Israel’s security in the last day or so.  And the President made very, very clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that he can count on U.S. support to help them in their self-defense against threats directly and publicly posed by Iran.  So, that’s that.

On the more announcements, I mean, as I said yesterday, we were expecting some announcements in coming hours and days.  We’ve started to see some of those announcements.  I’ll refer to the Israelis to speak to whether they’ve got more coming and what they might be. 

What we’re focused on, Gordon, is not the announcements.  The announcements are welcomed, and they certainly did come in the wake of the President’s direct requests.  But what we’re really looking for now is a sustainable commitment to meet those — what’s been announced; to make real, lasting, permanent changes to the way they’re doing business inside Gaza, both operationally and from a humanitarian perspective.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Missy Ryan with the Washington Post.

Q    Hey, John.  Just two questions.  Was there — and apologies if I missed this — did you have an update on the planned travel by Jake to Saudi Arabia?  Yesterday, you talked about — or the other day you talked about him postponing that because of his health situation.

And then, just stepping back to the U.S. analysis of the steps that the Israelis are taking and their investigation and then the readout of the Bibi call, should we be reading anything specifically into the fact that what you and the President and Secretary Blinken have said is that, you know, if the Israelis don’t show sort of effective changes, that it’ll affect U.S. policy on Gaza versus U.S. policy on Israel? 

I wondered whether this was trying to signal that some sort of support or the stance towards that particular operation might change.  But as you guys are saying, that the overall relationship isn’t going to change, are you trying to sort of caveat what the implications would be if they fail to meet the threshold that you guys are laying out?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  I think you’re ascribing to us perhaps more parsing of language than we deserve. 

But let me take the first question first.  And I don’t have an update on Jake’s trip to the Middle East and to Saudi.  I know that he very much wants to get it back on the schedule, and the team is working hard to see what we can do to do that.  But, you know, his health obviously has to come first. 

And then, on your second question, we’re talking about, as we have all said consistently, that we need to see changes in their policy towards the fighting in Gaza and the support to humanitarian aid organizations, or we will have to make changes to our policy with respect to supporting their efforts in Gaza.  And I think it’s best if I just leave it at that. 

The only thing I’d add is — and I kind of got to this in an earlier question — they live in a tough neighborhood.  And while we are all rightly concerned about what’s going on in Gaza operationally and from a humanitarian perspective, we can’t forget that they are under a range of other threats not related to the war in Gaza, from Hezbollah in the north; even the Houthis down in Yemen are launching missiles at them.  And of course, there’s the militia groups that Iran supports in Iraq and Syria and the very public, direct nation-state threats that Iran has made to Israel’s security. 

The Israeli people do not need to be reminded of the threat that they’re living under.  And the President made clear in that call yesterday, particularly given these public threats by Iran, that Israel will continue, as they have had for so many years in the past and through so many different administrations, the American support for their self-defense.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Andrew with The Independent

Q    Hi, can you all hear me okay?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I got you, buddy.

Q    Wonderful.  Thanks for taking my question.  John, I know you have said multiple times on this call that you want to get through the report and review of the Israeli report.  But there have been over 200 aid workers killed during this conflict.  And I’m wondering why, given what has become — I don’t want to call it a habit, but the number of aid workers killed by the IDF and the fact the IDF has shot some of their own people on occasion and seems to have exonerated anyone from wrongdoing there, why this Israeli report — prepared very, very quickly and I don’t want to say under duress, but with the possible objective of avoiding any consequences from the Biden administration — why should it be given a presumption of good faith?

And I understand you spoke to your counterparts at State, but why shouldn’t Secretary Blinken’s original call for an independent investigation not be followed through on?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I don’t want to put words in Secretary Blinken’s mouth.  I would refer you to my colleagues there.  But we’ve been communicating with them during this gaggle so that I can make sure I had the context.  He called for that independent investigation while they were working on their independent investigation.  And that was the investigation he was referring to.  Because he understands, like I understand, that they have a process inside their government to conduct independent investigations, again, not unlike the ones that we conduct using inspectors general.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s as close as I can get to it.  That’s what he was calling for. 

As for separate calls, I’m happy to repeat my answer.  As for separate calls for something additionally and independent outside of Israel, which we’ve seen certainly Chef Andrés call for, we’re just reserving judgment until we’ve had a chance to go through what they just produced.  I mean, my goodness, guys, they just gave it to us.  So we’re going to take the time — we’re going to take time, we’re going to look at it, and then we’ll reserve judgment based on what we find and what we see and what questions we might have for our Israeli counterparts.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Patsy with VOA.

Q    Thanks, Sam.  I’m going to try again, John.  The IDF said that the officers misidentified the three World Central Kitchen vehicles and they believed that Hamas gunmen was hiding in the convoy.  I’m going to try again and see if you can give an early assessment of whether this explanation makes sense considering what we’ve heard from Chef Andrés. 

MR. KIRBY:  No, I’m not going to do that at this time.

Q    Okay, and so another question.  You said that the strike — the World Central Kitchen strike — was the reason for the President’s call to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I’m also tracking that the President met Monday with three doctors who have been in Gaza and also with Senator Sanders on Wednesday.  Obviously, he is a critic of the war.  Did the two meetings in any way also shape the President’s decision to say what he said to Prime Minister Netanyahu?  Can you assure that?

MR. KIRBY:  The President’s discussion yesterday with the Prime Minister — certainly the impetus for the call was in the wake of this; it was this strike on the WCK workers.  As I said yesterday, that was certainly the catalyst for this phone call.

But I think it’s important to remember in context that the President’s concern and frustration has been growing over weeks and months based on things he’s been seeing coming out of Gaza — you know, civilians still being killed, infrastructure still being destroyed, not enough trucks getting in, the need to supplement the lack of trucks getting in by conducting airdrops.  I mean, you have to put everything into context.  I mean, all of that has been weighing on the President’s mind as he was thinking this through, and that includes conversations, yes, that he’s been having with people who have their own views and their own experiences.

Q    Okay.  And thank you.  And one last one, John.  How would you respond to criticism that the death of one American was able to move the President in a way that the death of 33,000 Palestinians did not?

MR. KIRBY:  I think that I just answered that question.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Nathan with KAN.

Q    Thanks so much.  A couple of questions.  First of all, regarding the investigation, is the U.S. looking also into the question whether American-made weapons or ammunitions were involved in this attack?  Does the report give an answer to that?  And if there were American weapons, would that make any difference?

MR. KIRBY:  You’d have to talk to the Israelis about the details of the report.  As I said, we’re going through that.  I’m not going to speak for an Israeli investigation that they’ve conducted and they’ve submitted.  We’re looking at it, we’re reviewing it, and I believe the Pentagon has been asked this question about American-made weapons, and there’s — they have said that they’re not in a position to verify the use of any particular weapon in any particular Israeli operation.  Those are questions that are much better put to the Israeli Defense Force.

Q    Thanks.  One more thing about putting in place new procedures that would ensure the safety of aid workers and of civilians.  Would there be an American mechanism that would follow up on this?  Would there be U.S. representatives on the ground, in the control rooms?  How would you make sure that Israel is following up on this?

MR. KIRBY:  No, there’s no intent to put American servicemen and women, or military experts, civilians — however you want to put it — there’s no intention to put Americans in the decision-making loop here on Israeli operations.  They’re a sovereign country.  They conduct their own military operations.  How they conduct those operations is obviously of interest to us, and that’s the context of the conversation that the two leaders had yesterday.  But, no, there’s not going to be an effort to do that. 

What we are interested in, as I’ve alluded to earlier, is sustainable, implementable, deconfliction processes, particularly when it comes to humanitarian aid organizations, so that there is a sufficient linkage, muscle and sinew, between aid organizations and the IDF in terms of real-time information-sharing and knowledge of what each other is doing so that this doesn’t happen again.  And that’s what we’re going to be looking for — real, practical changes to their deconfliction system.

Q    Thanks.  And just one more quick question.  Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid is scheduled to be in Washington next week.  Will he be meeting with an administration official?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything to speak to on the calendar, but if that changes, we’ll certainly make that evident to you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Yuna with Israel Channel 12.

Q    Hi.  Thank you for this.  So, (inaudible) approved and declared satisfying the White House and the President.  You have spoken about this in general, but this is something that the U.S. said that, regards to that, the U.S. will decide the policy.  And also, did the President threaten with conditioning aid during the call with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ve answered this one before.  What we’ve said is — and it’s right in the readout — our policy with respect to Gaza will be greatly impacted by our assessments of Israeli follow-through on the commitments that they’ve made, both in terms of deconfliction and confidence-building measures for humanitarian aid organizations, as well as the increase of aid getting in, reduction of civilian casualties, and of course, an effort to move forward on a deal to get the hostages out and a ceasefire in place for a period of weeks. 

So our Gaza policy will be affected greatly by our assessment of how the Israelis meet these commitments over time, in a sustainable way. 

And as for conditioning aid, I am simply not going to go into greater detail about the conversation between the two leaders.  The President reiterated that we need to see meaningful progress and changes in Israeli policy and operational decision-making.  And I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Sam.  Hi, John.  The President seems to be pushing Netanyahu to conclude this hostage deal.  I’m just wondering why the President didn’t push him or give him an ultimatum a month ago when the same deal was on the table, and Netanyahu rejected it.  And you could have saved both Palestinians and hostages’ lives, because (inaudible) reported today one hostage was killed by Israeli gunfire. 

And second, will you ask for an investigation of how the IDF is using AI program that targeting thousands of civilians, apparently?  And I asked you about this yesterday; you said you would get back to me, but this is another chance.  Maybe you have some more information about this.  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I wish I did there.  I don’t.  We’re still looking at that — that report. 

On your first question, we’ve been working diligently, very, very hard, for months now to get all those hostages out.  There is no lack of a sense of urgency by the President to do that, both in our conversations with our Israeli counterparts but also, of course, with our conversations with our Qatari counterparts who have the communication linkage with Hamas. 

So the idea that we are somehow sitting on our hands — and I’m not saying you said that — but the notion that we’re not pursuing this with great energy and effort just doesn’t comport with the facts. 

But, yes, it was a conversation topic yesterday that the President, again, urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to fully empower his negotiators in Cairo so that we can get this deal done as soon as possible. 

We believe — we are mindful that with each passing day, those hostages are at greater and greater risk and that their health is, without question, suffering all the more.  We want them home.  We’ve wanted them home since the 7th of October.  We’re not going to stop working on that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Francesca with USA Today.

Q    Thanks, Kirby.  And I know that you’ve touched on this at various points, but could you just bring us into the President’s thinking a little bit more broadly on this issue?  What is his reticence in conditioning the military aid?  Why hasn’t he felt that it was necessary at this point?  And just, what about this specific strike on the aid workers this week has him rethinking U.S. policy?

MR. KIRBY:  I just don’t have anything more to add on the questions about conditioning aid.  I can’t — I simply have nothing more to say about that. 

And as I said earlier to a previous question, he has been watching over recent weeks and months, you know, the increasing death toll of civilians, the lack of progress in terms of getting humanitarian assistance in over ground.  That’s one of the reasons why he ordered the military to start conducting airdrops, to try to supplement that.  It’s not sufficient, but it’s a supplement. 

So I think what you’re seeing is a growing set of concerns now over weeks and months about the situation — the humanitarian situation, in particular in Gaza. 

This strike on the World Central Kitchen, yes, it was horrific in its own right, of course, but you saw yourself, Francesca, that aid organizations in the wake of it started to make decisions, like the World Food Program.  You can’t ignore that development.  You can’t just — you can’t just close your eyes and ears to that when an organization like WFP says, “Well, that’s it.  You know, we’re going to pull back.”  I mean, they’re having a big impact inside Gaza, and we absolutely want to see that impact continue. 

So, all of that led to the President’s decision to have this very direct, very frank conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

And I want to go back to, you know, kind of where we started.  We have seen some welcome announcements from the Israelis.  They have acted on the President’s request coming out of that call; you’re starting to see it for yourself.  Now, again, as I said, these are just announcements.  We got to see results.  We got to see sustainable deliverables here over time.  It’s not enough just to announce it.  But they have moved on some of the very specific requests that the President made.

Q    And do you know if he’s spoken to Senator Coons or if that had any sort of an influence on his decision-making process here, or potentially the critiques that former Obama administration officials have been making?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t speak for the latter.  As you know, he does speak to Senator Coons quite a bit.  I don’t know if there was a specific conversation that he had with Senator Coons in recent days.  But they’re close, and they speak frequently. 

But as I said to an earlier question, certainly his views have been informed by conversations he has been having with people with experience in Gaza and with members of Congress up on Capitol Hill, as well as his own national security team and other foreign leaders that he’s been speaking to.  I mean, there’s a mosaic here of context through which the President makes these kinds of decisions, and he’ll continue to do so.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Fraser with France 24.  Fraser, we can’t hear you.  We still can’t hear you.  So sorry. 

And it looks like that’s all the time we’ll actually have today.  If we haven’t gotten to you, as always, feel free to reach out.  Thanks.

END    12:27 P.M. EDT


Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top