President Joe Biden said the US is speeding military assistance to Israel following Hamas’ surprise assault, and will stand by the Jewish state as it strikes back against the Palestinian militant group.
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said the US is speeding military assistance to Israel following Hamas’ surprise assault, and will stand by the Jewish state as it strikes back against the Palestinian militant group.
Biden said Tuesday at the White House the aid includes ammunition and interceptors to replenish Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile systems. He said he would ask Congress to urgently fund the national security requirements critical US partners, a group that includes Ukraine.
“We’re going to make sure that Israel does not run out of these critical assets to defend its cities and its citizens,” Biden said. “In this moment, we must be crystal clear: we stand with Israel.”
Biden delivered his most extensive and emotional comments to date on the war between Israel and Hamas, which broke out Saturday when militants raided southern Israel and fired a barrage of rockets at cities across the country, killing mostly civilians, including the elderly and children and more than a dozen Americans. He grew angry at times denouncing the violence as “abhorrent.”
Read More: Israel Latest: Talks Over Crisis Government as Army Adds Forces
The attacks come at a time when the president has already struggled to maintain support for Ukraine in its battle with Russia and as turmoil among Republicans in Congress has left the House of Representatives without a leader.
Biden along with counterparts in Germany, France, Italy and the UK spoke in a call on Monday and afterward released a statement that renewed their support for Israel and condemned Hamas.
Meanwhile, China, which has increasingly sought to assert itself as a global peacemaker, issued an initial statement Sunday that avoided naming an aggressor and failed to offer any specific offer of immediate assistance. It later said that it was a “friend to both” sides and that it was “saddened” by the casualties.
Over 1,000 Israelis have been killed and thousands more have been wounded or taken hostage, according to the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Gaza authorities reported 830 dead there.
Biden said Tuesday at least 14 US citizens have died in the attacks, and that Americans are among Hamas’ hostages. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said 20 or more Americans are unaccounted for in Israel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are being held hostage.
The president denounced the Hamas assault as an “act of sheer evil” that “brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS.” He said Israel must defend itself. The US and Europe have declared Hamas a terrorist group, whose history of suicide bombings make it an obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond — indeed has a duty to respond — to these vicious attacks,” Biden said.
Biden said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call earlier Tuesday that “our response would be swift, decisive and overwhelming” if similar attacks occurred in the US, while adhering to the rule of law.
Biden and Netanyahu also spoke about “additional capabilities that Israel will need” and the president pledged US planes would be landing with those supplies “in the days ahead,” Sullivan told reporters after the president’s speech.
Earlier: Blinken to Visit Israel in Show of US Support After Hamas Attack
The conflict marks the worst crisis Israel has faced in decades, and the nation has turned to its biggest ally, the US, for support. The Biden administration has already provided a tranche of military equipment to Israel from stocks of Iron Dome interceptors in Israel, Sullivan said.
Israel has called up more than 300,000 reservists in anticipation of a massive assault on the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas. Congress’ ability to quickly pass a request for new military assistance money has been hampered by the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Sullivan said the White House would issue new requests to US lawmakers for defense aid for both Israel and Ukraine, but did not say whether they would be combined.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Israel to find Americans who are believed missing. US intelligence and hostage-rescue experts will also be working with their Israeli counterparts. There are no plans for US military forces to be deployed in Israel, Sullivan said. The US is also consulting with Israel and Egypt to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from Gaza, he added.
There is concern that Hamas’ attack could portend a broader assault from other Iran-backed proxy groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both groups are heavily supported by Tehran and both are armed with thousands of missiles that can hit Israeli cities.
The US Navy has dispatched the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean and bolstered fighter-aircraft presence there to deter Iran and its affiliated militant groups against such a move.
“We stand ready to move in additional assets as needed,” Biden said. “Let me say again, to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: don’t.”
Biden also said the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies were monitoring for any domestic threats against Jewish communities in connection with the attacks.
“This is terrorism. But sadly for the Jewish people, it’s not new. This attack has brought to the surface painful memories of the scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide,” the president said.
–With assistance from Jenny Leonard.
(Adds additional comments from Biden and Jake Sullivan, starting in third paragraph)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.