WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden abruptly called off a trip Monday to Colorado, as he weighs an invitation to go to Israel to show support as it wages war against Hamas.
The White House said Biden would remain in Washington for national security meetings, amid fears that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a regional conflagration.
Several news outlets including Axios and CNN have reported that US and Israeli officials are discussing a possible Biden trip to Israel this week as it gears up for a ground invasion of Gaza.
“The president’s trip to Colorado is postponed and it will be rescheduled. The president will remain at the White House to participate in national security meetings,” the White House said.
Biden, 80, had been due to travel to Colorado to visit a wind turbine plant where he was to tout the economic revival and pro-environmental messages at the core of his 2024 reelection campaign.
The last-minute cancellation was unusual as presidential trips are tightly choreographed, and was so abrupt that White House officials had just hours earlier released details about the Colorado visit.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN that Biden will “stay focused on what’s going on between Israel and Hamas.”
“With respect to Israel, there was an invitation from the prime minister, but again - no travel to speak to right now,” Kirby said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is already in Jerusalem, his second visit to Israel in the space of less than a week.
Blinken has also visited six Arab states on a whirlwind diplomatic mission aimed at coordinating efforts against Hamas while finding ways to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.
Biden has repeatedly pledged strong support for close US ally Israel as it retaliates for the October 7 Hamas attack from Gaza that killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.
Reeling from the deadliest attack in its history, Israel unleashed a relentless bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip that flattened neighborhoods and killed at least 2,750 people, mainly civilians.
Fears have grown that Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, could get involved in the conflict after some fighting across Israel’s northern border.
“It’s worrisome the possibility of having some northern front open up,” Kirby said.
“As of this morning, we haven’t seen any firm indications that Hezbollah has decided to go all in here and truly open up a second front.”
The United States has dispatched two aircraft carriers - the USS Gerald R.Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower - to the region to deter other parties from getting involved.
Blinken was meanwhile working “very, very hard in the region” on trying to secure the opening of the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, which would allow aid in and foreigners out, Kirby said.
The United States has repeatedly said that it has no plans to put boots on the ground to support Israel, but it has been boosting its displays of support as the situation escalates.
Biden however warned in an interview broadcast Sunday that any move by Israel to occupy the Gaza Strip again would be a “big mistake”.
Biden visited another war zone - Ukraine - in a high-risk trip in February that was prepared in total secrecy. He last visited Israel in July 2022.