By DoD News
By Joseph Clark
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underscored the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel after meeting with key leaders in Tel Aviv.
Austin condemned the “bloodthirsty, fanatical and hateful” attacks by Hamas terrorists, which killed more than 1,300 people, according to Israeli figures, including at least 27 Americans. Austin compared the onslaught to the atrocities carried out by ISIS.
“The world has just witnessed a great evil: the deadliest attack on civilians in the history of the state of Israel and the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust,” he said after meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
“So, make no mistake: The United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself,” he said.
He added that the U.S. would continue to coordinate with Israel as it works to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas amid the attacks.
Austin also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Israeli War Cabinet to convey the United States’ “ironclad” support for Israel and commitment to deterring further escalation.
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-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft in the region yesterday.
The U.S. has also begun to flow military assistance to Israel and is preparing to deliver rounds to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptors.
“We will remain in close contact with our valued partners across the region, and security assistance from the Department of Defense is already rapidly flowing into Israel,” Austin said. “We will continue to ensure that Israel has what it needs to keep itself secure.”
“For any country, for any group or anyone thinking about trying to take advantage of this atrocity to try to widen the conflict or to spill more blood, we have just one word: Don’t,” Austin said.
“The world is watching,” he said. “So are we. And we aren’t going anywhere.”
This week Austin 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.
He said U.S. support to Israel remains “non-negotiable.”
“Hamas attacked at a time of global challenge, but the United States is the most powerful country in the world,” Austin said while in Tel Aviv. “We remained fully able to project power and uphold our commitments and direct resources to multiple theaters.”