Pentagon chief Austin discusses Iran, Gaza aid with Israel’s Gallant

By Thomson Reuters Apr 18, 2024 | 8:39 PM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss Iran’s actions in the Middle East, other regional threats and aid into Gaza, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Austin discussed “the importance of increasing and sustaining” the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, including via a new route from Ashdod Port in Israel, the Pentagon said.

Israel recently reopened the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and allowed the temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel 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.

Israel has faced growing international calls to do more to help civilians in Gaza, where nearly all of the 2.3 million population is displaced and enclave also suffers widespread hunger.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday food trucks entered the blockaded Gaza Strip from Ashdod Port for the first time since the government approved the opening of the port to aid shipments.

The Pentagon said Austin and Gallant discussed what it called “destabilizing actions” from Iran in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria.

Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory. Israel has been considering a response.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Sandra Maler)