U.S. Defense Secretary Discusses Iran and Gaza Aid with Israeli Counterpart

U.S. and Israel discuss Iran's destabilizing actions, Gaza aid, and a potential Israeli operation in Rafah as tensions escalate in the Middle East.

Muthana Al-Najjar
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U.S. Defense Secretary Discusses Iran and Gaza Aid with Israeli Counterpart

U.S. Defense Secretary Discusses Iran and Gaza Aid with Israeli Counterpart

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held discussions with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday, focusing on Iran's destabilizing actions in the Middle East, regional threats, and the importance of increasing humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. The call took place before Israel carried out a strike inside Iran, which a U.S. official confirmed they had advance warning of but did not endorse.

During the conversation, Austin emphasized the need to sustain and increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, including through a new route from Israel's Ashdod Port. The Pentagon described protecting Gaza civilians as a moral imperative. Israel recently reopened the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and allowed temporary use of Ashdod port after U.S. President Joe Biden threatened to impose conditions on support for Israel unless it took steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Why this matters: The discussions between the U.S. and Israel highlight the complex geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East, as tensions with Iran escalate and the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire. The U.S. is seeking to balance its support for Israel with the need to address the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli strike on an Iranian military air base near Isfahan appeared to be Israel's first direct military response to Iran's drone and missile attack last weekend. However, the strike did not hit Isfahan's nuclear facilities, and initial reactions from both sides were muted, suggesting a desire to de-escalate tensions. The U.S. and Britain also imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders and weapons manufacturers in response to Iran's actions.

Separately, Austin and Gallant held a high-level virtual meeting to discuss a possible Israeli operation in Rafah, a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza. The Biden administration expressed concerns that an Israeli invasion of Rafah could lead to massive civilian casualties. U.S. officials denied reports that the administration gave a green light for an operation in Rafah if Israel declined to strike Iran in retaliation for the recent attack.

The Pentagon stated that Austin and Gallant also discussed "destabilizing actions" from Iran in the Middle East, including Iran's launch of hundreds of drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Iran's air defense systems were activated in several regions as a precaution, but no large-scale strikes or explosions were reported. Iranian state media said all sensitive military and security installations in Isfahan province, which has significant nuclear facilities, remain secure.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. and Israel discussed Iran's destabilizing actions, Gaza aid.
  • Israel carried out a strike on an Iranian military air base.
  • U.S. expressed concerns over a potential Israeli invasion of Rafah.
  • U.S. and Britain imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders.
  • Iran activated air defense systems after the strike, but no major damage reported.