Biden holds phone call with Saudi Crown Prince MBS in bid to stop war ‘expanding’ in the Middle East and to ask for help in getting $100 million in US aid to Gaza quicker

President Joe Biden on Tuesday spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about getting humanitarian aid to get to Gaza faster as Israel intensified its bombing campaign, launching 400 air strikes against Hamas.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have had a tense relationship but the two leaders spoke about how ‘much more is needed’ for civilians in Gaza ‘to have sustained access to food, water, and medical assistance,’ according to a White House readout of the call.

Biden also spoke with MBS, who is the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia, about keeping the war from expanding.

The two discussed the ‘ongoing diplomatic and military efforts to deter state and non-state actors from widening the conflict between Israel and Hamas,’ the White House said. The U.S. is concerned that groups tied to Iran and Iraq could use the Israeli-Hamas conflict to start strikes in the region.

President Joe Biden has expressed concern that aid is not getting to Gaza fast enough

The president, meanwhile, expressed concern about Gaza’s 2.3 million people who have been running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the October 7th attack by Hamas on towns in southern Israel.

Biden, asked at a White House event if aid was getting into Gaza fast enough, replied: ‘Not fast enough.’

His remark came as Israel hit the Gaza strip with a barrage of airstrikes that crushed multiple residential buildings and buried families under rubble. 

Israel is also pressuring Palestinians to help with the release of the more than 200 hostages. The Israeli military dropped leaflets in Gaza asking for information on the hostages’ whereabouts, promising a reward and protection for the informant’s home in exchange.

‘If you want a better future for you and your children, do good and share verified and valuable information about hostages being held in your area. And the Israeli military promises you that it will invest maximum effort in providing security for you and your home, and you will receive a financial reward. We guarantee you complete confidentiality. The Israel Defense Forces,’ it said per a translation from CNN. 

The White House has pushed for the immediate release of all hostages but also conceded they don’t know the location of all of them. 

‘We are not completely sure about the location of each and every hostage. And we are working to get more granularity on that, and we have seen yesterday another two got out, obviously that’s just a tiny fraction of the pool that we think Hamas is holding. But we think the effort to continue to negotiate for the release of additional hostages is worth the effort,’  White House spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby also noted no humanitarian aid entered Gaza on Tuesday.

‘We hope the materials can enter Gaza tomorrow,’ U.N. aid spokesperson Eri Kaneko said.

The first convoy of 20 trucks crossed from Egypt into Gaza on Saturday, and the second convoy arrived the day after. 

In total 54 trucks have crossed into Gaza carrying food, medicine and water, which U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as ‘a drop of aid in an ocean of need.’ 

More than 200 trucks containing 3,000 tonnes of aid are waiting on the Egyptian border for Israeli approval to enter Gaza. 

The trucks are carrying medical supplies from the World Health Organization (WHO), food and bottled water.

President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (above right) about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (above right) about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip wait to pass through the Rafah border crossing at Egypt

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip wait to pass through the Rafah border crossing at Egypt

The United States also has expressed concern that fuel is running out, noting its needed for hospital facilities and to covert salt water to fresh water. 

Israel, however, said that it’s worried any fuel deliveries may end up with Hamas.

Kirby on Tuesday described Israel’s concerns as legitimate but noted it’s still needed by civilians.

‘We still believe, just in general, that fuel needs to be able to get in to the people of Gaza,’ he said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said on Tuesday it will be forced to halt its operations in Gaza by Wednesday night if no fuel is delivered to area.

More than 4,600 Palestinians, more than a third of them children, have been killed in the relentless bombardments. Israel says it’s targeting Hamas fighters who killed more than 1,400 people in the October 7 attack in southern Israel. 

And facilities in Gaza are struggling to deal with the causalities A total of 46 out of 72 primary health-care facilities, and 12 out of 35 hospitals, stopped functioning, the World Health Organization said.

Gaza´s five main hospitals were all filled beyond capacity, the territory’s health ministry said.

The Biden administration is pressuring Israel to delay its ground invasion into Gaza in order to buy time to secure the release of more hostages and for more aid to enter the war-torn region.

And Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday called on UN Security Council member states to use their leverage to stop the Israel-Hamas war from expanding,

He particularly focused on concerns about Iran and its proxies. 

‘To all the members of this council, if you, like the United States, want to prevent this conflict from spreading, tell Iran, tell its proxies in public, in private, through every means: Do not open another front against Israel in this conflict. Do not attack Israel’s partners,’ Blinken said.