By DoD News
By Joseph Clark
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will travel to Israel on Friday to meet with Israeli leaders and underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to support Israel following the recent deadly attacks by Hamas terrorists, Defense Department officials announced today.
Austin is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and members of the Israeli War Cabinet to discuss Israel’s operational planning and objectives and security assistance needs in response to the series of attacks launched early Saturday.
“This is sending quite a clear signal of the depth of U.S. commitment to Israel’s security,” a senior Pentagon official said.
“What is quite clear is the commitment of this administration and our Cabinet to support the Israeli people as they work to restore security to their people,” the official said.
Austin’s visit follows days of close coordination between the U.S. and Israel.
Soon after the attacks, he announced measures to bolster U.S. presence in the region to strengthen its deterrence against further attacks. That enhanced posture includes the positioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford Strike Group in the Eastern Mediterranean and bolstering Air Force fighter presence in the region.
The carrier strike group arrived on station Tuesday. Pentagon officials announced the arrival of a squadron of Air Force A-10Thunderbolt II attack aircraft in the region today.
“We are continually adjusting and monitoring our posture in […] in the region to ensure we are positioned in support of Israel’s defense,” the Pentagon official said.
“The United States is unequivocal in its support for the defense of Israel and is sending a warning to any entity that would consider taking advantage of this conflict and this war to escalate violence. One word, quite simply, ‘don’t,'” the official said.
In addition to increasing its force presence in the region, the U.S. has also begun to flow military assistance to Israel and is preparing delivery of rounds to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptors.
“We will continue to be responsive to Israel’s requests for air defense, artillery, ammunition and precision-guided munitions,” the Pentagon official said. “Secretary Austin’s commitment to responding expeditiously to Israel’s request is a high priority for his national security team.”
Austin this week convened the 16th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and attended a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The secretary has underscored the United States’ commitment to assisting Israel, while at the same time continuing to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s ongoing war of aggression.
“Our support for Israel is rock solid,” Austin said earlier today in Brussels. “We are working urgently to get Israel what it needs to defend itself, including munitions and Iron Dome interceptors. And we will do so even as we continue to support the people of Ukraine as they fight against Russian aggression.