WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden issued a forceful condemnation of Hamas, and pledged American support for Israel, as he announced that the number of American dead from the terror group’s invasion of Israel is now 14.
As many as 20 Americans are missing, according to the White House.
In an address on Tuesday, the fourth day of Israel’s war with Hamas, Biden also pledged to keep Israel stocked with defensive equipment.
“There are moments in this life when a pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed upon the world,” Biden said, speaking from the White House and flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. ”The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.”
Terrorists killed more than 900 people, injured thousands more and kidnapped more than 100 after pouring over the Gaza border. Israel has declared war, initiated what a senior official called a “complete siege” of Gaza and has hit the coastal strip with airstrikes, killing more than 800.
Biden said the number of American dead was at least 14, three more than the 11 he reported in a statement on Monday. He also confirmed for the first time that Americans were among those abducted. Relatives of U.S. citizens who went missing during the invasion held a press conference in Tel Aviv Tuesday.
“We now know that American citizens are among those being held by Hamas,” Biden said, without giving a number. “I’m directing my team to share intelligence and deploy additional experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery and recovery efforts. Because as President, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world.”
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, said afterward that it was not clear how many Americans were among those abducted, but that at least 20 Americans were missing. He emphasized that he did not if the missing were all hostages.
Biden said that he had just spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had made requests for equipment.
“From the moment this crisis began, we were surging additional military assistance including ammunition and interceptors to replenish Iron Dome,” Biden said, referring to Israel’s missile defense system. “We’re going to make sure that Israel does not run out of its critical assets to defend its cities and its citizens.”
Biden said he would soon make new requests for defense assistance funding to Congress. Sullivan confirmed that Netanyahu made additional requests for equipment, but he declined to give details.
Biden noted, as he has in recent days, that he sent naval reinforcements to the region as a deterrent. “Let me say again, to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation, I have one word: Don’t. Don’t.”
Sullivan said Iran shared the blame for the invasion, even absent direct evidence of Iranian involvement. He cited Iran’s longstanding financial support for and training of Hamas.
He said Iran is liable for “broad complicity based on the longstanding support that Hamas is given by Iran. We don’t have specific information that ties Iran to this attack.” PJC