Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday pledged that the United States will never falter from its support for Israel as he condemned Hamas’ “litany of brutality and inhumanity” as evoking “the worst of ISIS.”
“The message that I bring to Israel is this: you may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to,” Blinken said in remarks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. “We will always be there by your side.”
The top US diplomat’s trip to Israel, days after Hamas’ deadly attacks in Israel, is another show of support as the Biden administration seeks to bolster the country’s defenses and stop the conflict from expanding or spreading. The visit also comes as the US seeks to help secure the release of hostages, including American citizens, held by Hamas and as the death toll, both as a result of Hamas’ attacks and Israeli strikes in Gaza, continues to grow.
“Tragically, the number of innocent lives claimed by Hamas’ heinous attacks continues to rise. Among those, we now know that at least 25 American citizens were killed,” Blinken said.
The US been “adamant” with other nations about the need to unequivocally condemn Hamas’ attacks, the top US diplomat said, cataloging the horrors committed by the terrorist group: “babies slaughtered, bodies desecrated, young people burned alive, women raped, parents executed in front of their children, children in front of their parents.”
“I understand on a personal level, the harrowing echoes that Hamas’ massacres carry for Israeli Jews, indeed, for Jews everywhere,” Blinken noted, describing his own identity as both a father and Jew.
“There is no excuse. There is no justification for these atrocities,” he said. “This is – this must be – a moment for moral clarity.”
The top US diplomat said some military support has already arrived in Israel and “more is on the way.”
“As Israel’s defense needs evolve, we will work with Congress to make sure that they’re met. And I can tell you, there is overwhelming, overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security,” Blinken said.
He did not explicitly speak of restraint from Israeli forces but said he discussed with the Israeli leader the importance of taking “every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”
“No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place. Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again,” Blinken said.
“As the prime minister and I discussed, how Israel does this matters,” he said, reiterating that respect for civilian life is what distinguishes democracies from the likes of Hamas. Blinken also stressed that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.
The US is “working closely with Israel to secure the release of the men, women, children, elderly people, taken hostage by Hamas,” Blinken said. More than a dozen Americans were unaccounted for on Wednesday, the White House said.
“We’re pursuing intensive diplomacy throughout the region to prevent the conflict from spreading, and I’ll be doing that over the course of my trip in the coming days,” Blinken said. His trip is expected to continue beyond its original stops of Israel and Jordan, a State Department official said.
Blinken echoed the “the crystal clear warning the President Biden issued yesterday to any adversary – state or non-state – thinking of taking advantage of the current crisis to attack Israel: Don’t.”