US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Israel on Thursday to reaffirm that the US will always stand behind Israel while denouncing Hamas’ “litany of brutality and inhumanity” as reminiscent of “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.”
Days after Hamas carried out fatal assaults in Israel, the senior US diplomat’s visit is another sign of solidarity as the Biden administration works to strengthen the nation’s defenses and prevent the conflict from escalating or spreading. The visit also comes at a time when the US is working to aid in the release of hostages, including Americans, held prisoner by Hamas and as the number of people killed as a consequence of both Hamas attacks and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza keeps rising.
Blinken will visit Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates after leaving Tel Aviv on Thursday.
A “handful” of the 14 missing Americans, according to the White House, are thought to be being kept prisoner. They said that the Hamas attacks have claimed the lives of at least 27 Americans. In a meeting with the families of Americans slain or held prisoner by Hamas while on the ground in Israel, the senior US diplomat said “We’re doing everything we can to secure the release of the hostages, working closely with our Israeli partners.”
Steve Gillen, the US delegation’s deputy special envoy for hostage affairs, “will stay on the ground here to support the efforts to free their loved ones,” Blinken added.
Blinken criticized and voiced horrified at the savagery of the Hamas attacks during his public speech in Israel. According to Blinken, the Israeli government publicly displayed gruesome images and recordings of the terrorist organization’s atrocities, including “babies slaughtered, bodies desecrated, young people burned alive, women raped, parents executed in front of their children, children in front of their parents.” Following their meeting, three of these images were made available by Netanyahu’s office on the social networking platform X.
According to the top US diplomat, the US has been “adamant” with other countries about the need to categorically denounce Hamas actions.
The senior US ambassador didn’t specifically mention Israeli forces exercising restraint, but he did say he talked with Israeli officials about how crucial it is to take “every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”
In an unannounced visit to a donation location in Tel Aviv after his meeting with Netanyahu, Blinken spoke with a 24-year-old Israeli-American victim of the music festival massacre.
While speaking with Netanyahu, the senior US ambassador reaffirmed “the crystal clear warning President Biden issued yesterday to any adversary – state or non-state – thinking of taking advantage of the current crisis to attack Israel: Don’t.”
He said that Israel had already received some military assistance and that “more is on the way.”
Although he didn’t mention it specifically, he claimed to have discussed with the Israeli leader the necessity of taking “every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”