Gov. Hochul arrives in Israel in gesture of solidarity as Biden promises aid for Gaza, West Bank

WABC logo
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Gov. Hochul begins tour of Israel, meets with displaced families and visits food pantry
NY Gov. Kathy Hochul met with displaced families and visited a food pantry after landing in Israel Wednesday evening. Josh Einiger is live in Tel Aviv with the latest details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- On Wednesday President Joe Biden visited a nation at war and warmly embraced Israel's prime minister before meeting with victims of the Oct. 7 terrorist invasion that shook Israel to its core.

His visit to Israel, which lasted about 8 hours, came as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also arrived in Israel to begin a trip intended to show support for the country during its war with Hamas.

The Democratic governor landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport around 5:40 p.m. with a group of state police officers and top aides, according to a pool report. She was met at the airport by Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog.

Hochul received a security briefing then traveled about 30 minutes away to meet with families. She was then planning to head to a food pantry to help pack and drop off boxes for people who have had to move because of the conflict. From there, Hochul will be taken to Jerusalem, where she will stay for the night.

Hochul said her trip is meant to be a gesture of solidarity and support for Israel. New York is home to the largest Jewish population of any U.S. city, according to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University.

"There is a deep, direct connection between New York state and Israel that has always been there, a bond steeled over decades," Hochul said. "And it's easy to go when the sun is shining and everything is fine."

"The community feels, in Israel and in New York, that my going during these times will be the most significant symbol of their importance to us than anything else we could do," she said.

ALSO READ | How aid groups are responding to the Israel-Hamas war, and where to donate

Hochul has said she wanted to ensure Israel has the resources to protect their citizens, while also allowing Gazan civilians to get the humanitarian assistance they need, as long as it would not benefit Hamas.

"It is still my strong position that Israel must defend itself against terrorism, or else terrorism will know no boundaries, and we have seen what terrorism looks and feels like in our own city streets," she said during a press briefing Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Hochul said Wednesday that they don't have an exact number on how many New Yorkers are stuck in either Israel or Palestine because of the conflict.

One New York resident has been publicly identified as being held hostage so far. Omer Neutra, a Plainview High School graduate, was taken hostage while serving as an IDF solider.

Biden's trip was an urgent mission to keep the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a broader regional conflict. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that limited humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza from Egypt following a request from Biden.

The president's visit came after hundreds of people were reported killed in an explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital. There were conflicting claims of who was responsible for the hospital blast. Officials in Gaza quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike. Israel denied it was involved and released a flurry of video, audio and other information that it said showed the blast was due to a missile misfire by Islamic Jihad, another militant group operating in Gaza. The Islamic Jihad dismissed that claim.

The United States is promising $100 million in humanitarian assistance to help Palestinian people who have been displaced or otherwise affected by conflict in Gaza and the West Bank. Biden announced in a news release Wednesday that the assistance would be provided through trusted partners, including U.N. agencies and international NGOs.

"Civilians are not to blame and should not suffer for Hamas's horrific terrorism," Biden said. "Civilian lives must be protected and assistance must urgently reach those in need."

The president discussed how the October 7 attacks were equivalent to "15 9/11s" for Israel and its size.

Biden's meetings with Arab leaders were called off after the Gaza Health Ministry reported 500 Palestinian civilians were killed by a rocket that struck a hospital.

The White House announced that Biden will "address the nation to discuss our response to Hamas' terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia's ongoing brutal war against Ukraine," in a televised address from the Oval Office on Thursday at 8 p.m.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

ALSO READ | Upper East Side resident returns to Israel for IDF active duty as war continues

A man from the Upper East Side joined the Israeli Defense Forces to report for duty. Reporter Darla Miles has the story.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New York City news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.