Blinken, Austin reaffirm support for Israel, condemn Hamas brutality

Top U.S. officials on Thursday reiterated America's "rock-solid" support for Israel and denounced the brutality of Hamas "terrorists," as the fighting sparked by the Palestinian militant group's surprise attack last week has left at least 25 U.S. citizens dead.

In a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the United States' solidarity with Israel and its commitment to the vision of a "more peaceful, integrated, secure and prosperous" Middle East.

"The message 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 ... we will always be there by your side," he said in an emphatic tone.

Being Jewish himself and a father of two children, Blinken stressed that he personally understands the "harrowing echoes of Hamas' massacres."

"We've been shocked by the depravity of Hamas. We've also been inspired by the bravery of Israel's citizens," he said.

The secretary noted that Washington is delivering on its word by supplying interceptors to replenish Israel's Iron Dome air defense system alongside other defense equipment. He also pledged to work with Congress to ensure Israel's defense needs are met.

"I can tell you there is overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel's security," he said.

Earlier in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Blinken said, "The United States is working to ensure Israel has everything it needs to defend itself and its people."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated that the U.S. can respond to both crises in Israel and Ukraine as he was in Brussels to attend a defense ministerial gathering of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Such a message appeared intended to squelch concerns that the renewed Israel-Hamas conflict could undercut U.S. security commitments to Ukraine and other partner countries.

"Make no mistake. We can and will stand by Israel even as we stand by Ukraine," he told a press conference. "The United States can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Both Blinken and Austin repeated the warning against any organization or any country potentially attempting to exploit the conflict in Israel to its advantage.

"I want to underscore the message that nobody should try to take advantage of this vile Hamas assault to cause more bloodshed and instability. Our support for Israel is rock-solid," Austin told reporters.

Asked if there was an Iranian role in the recent Hamas attack, Austin said that the U.S. is not seeing any indications yet that the Islamic republic was involved in the planning or execution of the assault.

"But we also know Iran has a long track-record of supporting Hamas. So there is a relationship there that extends over the year," he said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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