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John Kirby: "Significant progress" made on humanitarian assistance to Gaza but "nothing flowing right now"

John Kirby on Gaza aid, Biden's Israel visit
John Kirby on humanitarian assistance to Gaza: "Nothing flowing right now" 03:44

U.S. officials believe "significant progress" has been made on a "framework" to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war, but "there's nothing flowing right now" by way of assistance, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, told "CBS Mornings" on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met for seven hours Monday with Israel's wartime cabinet "to try to work on a framework to get that humanitarian assistance in, and we believe we made some progress on that score," Kirby said. 

"And then hopefully soon, there will be some humanitarian assistance — food, water, medicine — getting into the folks that live in Gaza, as well as trying to make some arrangements for folks who want to get out to get out safely," he said.

The uncertain timing on possible assistance comes as civilians in the Gaza Strip are suffering under relentless airstrikes by Israel in response to the Hamas militant group's deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Israel has cut off the flow of supplies to the Palestinian territory, and hospitals are facing dire shortages as they try to treat patients.

"No supplies have come into Gaza since the 7th of October, nothing, no fuel, no food, no water, no other types of assistance," Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency, said Monday.

President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday to show support for the key U.S. ally at what Kirby described as a "critical time" — "particularly for the humanitarian assistance front."

"The president believed that this was exactly the right time to go to get an update from Israeli officials about how things are going on the ground, what their intentions are going forward, and also to talk to our regional partners about the need to make sure that we can get humanitarian assistance into Gaza and safe passage for people that want to get out of Gaza," he said.

Kirby also said the U.S. wants to make sure that anyone who is living in Gaza "and has to leave or wants to leave can absolutely get back — that's home."

"And these are innocent civilians," he said. "They're victims of this just as much as those folks in Israel who were hurt, killed by Hamas, so we want to make sure that they can get home."

Israel is expected to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, raising questions about what happens in the aftermath. While Kirby said he doesn't want to "get ahead" of Israeli military intentions or plans, "those are very valid questions that we're exploring with our Israeli counterparts."

As far as the looming ground invasion, Kirby said the U.S. isn't "getting down at the tactical level" with the Israelis "in terms of dictating where and when they can operate." 

"This is their operation," he said. "This is their country to defend, and we're respectful of that."

Secretary Blinken has visited Israel twice since the Oct. 7 attack as part of a regional diplomacy blitz to show support for Israel, try to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, and work to prevent the war spreading. 

Blinken said Monday the U.S. and Israel "have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multinational organizations to reach civilians in Gaza."

Israel's defense chief told Blinken that the "price will be high, but we are going to win" the war with Hamas. Yoav Gallant said Israel would fulfill its commitment to eradicate Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group, "for the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in."

The Biden administration, along with Israel's other major Western allies, has given Israel its full-throated backing to respond to Hamas' bloody Oct. 7 terror attack, with Mr. Biden himself telling 60 Minutes that Israel can and should "go after Hamas" in Gaza.

The White House has also repeatedly stressed that Israel must adhere to international law and conventions calling for all steps possible to be taken to protect innocent civilian lives.

Officials in Gaza say Israel's bombardment has killed more than 2,800 people and wounded almost 11,000 others, a majority of them women and children. In Israel, officials say Hamas' siege and ongoing rocket attacks have killed some 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. Hamas is said to be holding almost 200 hostages, including Israeli troops and civilians and a number of Americans.

–Tucker Reals and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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