President Joe Biden on Friday pledged that the U.S. will do more in “the coming days” to get humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip, including participating in airdrops of supplies into the Palestinian territory and considering facilitating a marine corridor to deliver assistance. 

"In the coming days, we are going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops of additional food and supplies into Ukraine and seek to continue to open up other avenues into Ukraine, including the possibility of a marine corridor to deliver large amounts of humanitarian assistance,” Biden told reporters; it was later clarified he meant Gaza.

What You Need To Know

  • President Joe Biden on Friday said the U.S. will participate in airdrops of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip
  • The announcement comes one day after dozens of Palestinians were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops while waiting for aid 
  • Biden used the brief opening remarks at the start of his Oval Office sit-down with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to make the announcement
  • Biden and Meloni -- a staunch supporter of Ukraine -- also discussed the war between Ukraine and Russia as Biden struggles to get Congress to approve more aid

The announcement comes one day after dozens of Palestinians were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops while waiting for aid – an event Biden on Friday called “tragic and alarming.” Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd who they believed moved toward them in a threatening way.

“The loss of life is heartbreaking,” Biden said. “People are so desperate that innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families and you saw the response when they tried to get aid in."

Biden used the brief opening remarks at the start of his Oval Office sit-down with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to make the announcement.

The meeting with Meloni – a staunch supporter of Ukraine who traveled to Kyiv last week in a show of solidarity on the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion – comes as Biden is pleading, thus far to no avail, to get Congress to pass additional aid to Ukraine. 

The U.S. president has sought to assure European leaders that the U.S. remains behind the country battling Russia even as Biden’s been unable to win passage of a supplemental foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine in addition to $35 billion for Israel and Taiwan. The legislation has passed the Senate, but Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has refused to put it up for a vote in the House.

The president has insisted that the package would garner enough support from Democrats and Republicans combined if Johnson were to simply let members take a vote. Earlier this week, Biden called Congress’ top four leaders to the White House for an Oval Office huddle in which the president, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all urged Johnson to put the bill on the floor. It was a conversation both Schumer and Jeffries called “intense.” 

The speaker emerged making clear he wanted Biden to take action on the U.S.-Mexico border first – despite declaring a bipartisan border deal worked out over weeks that was originally tied to the foreign aid package dead swiftly after it came out. 

 “I was very clear with the president and all those in the room that the House is actively pursuing and investigating all the various options on that and we will address that in a timely manner,” Johnson said of the Ukraine aid and the $95 billion foreign assistance bill that passed in the Senate earlier this month. “But again, the first priority of the country is our border and making sure it is secure.”

Friday’s meeting is the second between Biden and Meloni in about seven months. Both leaders are grappling with war in the Middle East and Europe and looking to shore up their public standing.

“We are trying to work out a deal between Israel and Hamas — the hostages being returned and the immediate cease-fire in Gaza for at least the next six weeks, and to allow the surge of aid to the entire Gaza Strip, not just the south,” Biden said on Friday. 

Meloni on Friday called the war in the Middle East of the “utmost concern,” adding they must coordinate actions to “avoid an escalation.” She said the humanitarian crisis is Italy’s “number one priority.” 

The U.S. is in the thick of trying to shore up another temporary cease-fire in the war in Gaza that would facilitate the release of hostages still being held by Hamas. The president made headlines this week when he said he hoped an agreement would be in place by Monday but took a step back on Thursday when he noted he “probably” would not happen that soon. 

"Hope springs eternal," Biden said, adding: "I was on the telephone with the people in the region. Probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful."

Biden has begun ramping up for an all-but-certain rematch in November against former President Donald Trump, the likely GOP nominee. Biden’s bid for a second term is complicated by the electorate’s concern about his age, 81, frustration among some Democrats over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war and mixed feelings about the state of the American economy.

Polls show that Meloni’s right-wing Brothers of Italy Party, which swept into power in 2022, still enjoys the most support in Italy, but it has seen a noticeable decline over the last year. Her bloc faced a setback this week when the candidate she campaigned for was defeated in regional elections on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

Meloni’s popularity will be further tested with four more regional elections in 2024 and nationwide elections for Italy’s representatives to the European parliament set for June.

During her recent visit to Kyiv, Meloni reaffirmed Italian support for Ukraine and signed a security cooperation agreement for military and technical assistance through the end of the year. Italy is also committed to helping Ukraine reconstruct historical monuments.

There was trepidation in the Biden administration when Meloni rose to power as the head of Italy’s first far-right-led government since the end of World War II. But the two have found common ground over the cause of Ukraine, and Biden heaped praise on Meloni and Italy for its efforts to back Kyiv when she visited Washington in July.

The Associated Press contributed to this report