Pentagon halts travel to Israel, discourages congressional visits

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The Pentagon will no longer allow its senior military leaders to travel to Israel and will discourage members of Congress from making trips amid the country’s ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza, according to a memo released Friday.

The memo, confirmed to The Hill by a Defense Department official, was dated to go into effect Tuesday. The restrictions do not apply to President Biden, members of Biden’s Cabinet, Joint Chiefs of Staff C.Q. Brown, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Christopher Grady or the service secretaries or chiefs.

Fighting in Gaza ramped up this week after Israel began a long-awaited ground invasion of Gaza. Pentagon officials reportedly discouraged the Israeli military against a ground incursion, to no avail.

“Support to congressional delegation visits will be unavailable to Israel during this period, and no DoD support shall be made available for congressional travel to Israel without my approval,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in the memo, which was first reported by Punchbowl News.

The war, which began early last month, has killed thousands between the surprise attacks in Israel by Hamas, and a relentless bombing campaign by the Israeli military on Gaza.

Over a thousand Israeli civilians died in the Oct. 7 attack, and over 9,200 Palestinian people — including over 3,800 children — have died in the Israeli counteroffensive, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Friday to advocate for the Biden administration’s proposal of a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict in order to assist civilians in Gaza.

But, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that there will be no pause. He said the strikes would continue until the more than 200 people held hostage were returned.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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