The Korea Herald


Blinken, Austin reaffirm support for Israel, condemn Hamas brutality

By Yonhap

Published : Oct. 13, 2023 - 09:24

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Thursday. (Yonhap) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Top US 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 27 US 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.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated that the US 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 US 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."

Responding to a question of whether the US has placed any conditions on its provision of arms to Israel to ensure those weapons are not used indiscriminately against civilians in Gaza, Austin said Washington has "no reason to believe they would do anything different."

"We've not placed any conditions on the provision of this equipment ... We would hope and expect they would do the right things in the prosecution of their campaign," he said. "We will leave it to them to define what their operations are going to look like."

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 US 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.

Blinken's Middle East swing also includes a stop in Jordan, where he plans to meet separately with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the ongoing confict between Israel and Hamas.

Following his visit to Brussels, Austin will travel to Israel on Friday, Politico reported, citing a senior Defense Department official. He will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other officials, it said. (Yonhap)