Biden aide visits KSA, Israel for Gaza talks

Sunday, 19 May 2024

WASHINGTON, May 18 (AFP/BBC/AP) - US President Joe Biden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan will travel to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Israel at the weekend for talks on the conflict in Gaza, the White House said Friday.
Sullivan will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Morehouse College divided over
Biden's graduation speech
As one of the nation's most preeminent historically black colleges prepares to host President Joe Biden, students say controversy surrounding his visit has overshadowed their graduation.
Mr Biden will travel to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday to deliver the school's commencement address, a tradition complicated by criticism over his handling of the Israel-Gaza war, which has sparked nationwide college protests.
The speech's audience and setting - a battleground state critical to Mr Biden's re-election - also bring into focus the looming November presidential election. Morehouse, one of 107 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the US, and the only all-male HBCU, offers Mr Biden a chance to address young black men - a crucial group of voters whose support for the Democratic president has eroded.
While the college has seen a handful of demonstrations against the war in Gaza, they have not reached the size and scope of others. But frustration grew in April after students' concerns at protests went unanswered and Mr Biden was announced as their graduation speaker.
Some students and faculty called for the president's invitation to be rescinded. The college responded by giving students and faculty an opportunity to voice concerns at forums on campus. But Morehouse President David Thomas made clear that Mr Biden would be the speaker.
"It makes me feel like it's no longer about me," said Marq Riggins, a Morehouse 2024 graduate who said he's not enthusiastic about the remarks. "He's coming here to take pictures with us."
In a procedural step on Thursday, faculty at Morehouse voted on giving Mr Biden an honorary degree during Sunday's graduation. Some media reports indicated opposition among faculty, but ultimately they voted in favour of the honorary degree, 50-38.
Mr Riggins is not alone in his frustration and distrust of the president.
A 13 May poll from the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Siena College that examined swing states found the president behind with multiple constituencies he is courting, including younger voters, voters in Georgia and young black voters.
Israeli forces recover bodies
of 3 hostages from Gaza
Israeli forces on Thursday night retrieved the bodies of three hostages from the Gaza Strip, chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on Friday.
Hagari identified the three as Shani Louk, Amit Buskila and Yitzhak Gelernter, who he said "were murdered by Hamas while escaping the Nova music festival on Oct 7 and their bodies were taken into Gaza". He did not say where the bodies were found.
The Israeli government had confirmed the death of German-Israeli Louk, a 23-year-old tattoo artist, in late October. A video that circulated on social media at the time showed her half-naked body slung across the back of a pick-up truck and paraded through Gaza.
But the family of 57-year-old Gelernter was "in total darkness" about his fate until Friday, his daughter, Yarden Pivko, told Channel 12 News. "We held on to hope and had a lot of faith that the end would be different," she said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the military operation in a statement on Friday and reiterated a pledge to return all the hostages, "the living and the deceased alike".
In response to the military's announcement, the armed wing of Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, said it was "sceptical" of Israel's claims and added that the only way for the remaining hostages to return alive was through a truce.
"The resistance believes that the enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses or through an honourable exchange deal for our people," it said.