US Outrage Over Hamas Attack on Israel
On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas launched a multi-prong military operation on Israel that included rocket attacks, balaclava-clad fighters dropping from paragliders, and ground assaults on civilians in their homes, on city streets and at a music festival. It was the boldest and most sophisticated operation by the Palestinian extremist movement, which emerged in 1988 and has since evolved as one of the two biggest security threats to Israel. Hundreds died and dozens were taken hostage. It coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel, which was also the last time that Israeli intelligence failed to foresee a war.
The United States condemned the historic terrorist attack, which President Biden compared to the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda on the United States. “Terrorism is never justified,” Biden said in his first statement. He also warned about the danger of a wider conflagration that could draw in other Islamic militants. “The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation.” The United States deployed two carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and sent Air Force fighter jets to the region to deter Israel's other adversaries from opening up a second war front. The United States has “made it clear to the Iranians, 'Be careful,'” Biden warned again on October 11. The following are statements by senior U.S. officials, in chronological order since October 7, on the unprecedented Hamas attack.
President Biden’s remarks on Oct. 7, 2023
“Good afternoon. Today, the people of Israel are under attack, orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world and to terrorists everywhere that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. We’ll make sure they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves.
“The world has seen appalling images: thousands of rockets in the space of hours raining down on Israeli cities... Hamas terrorists crossing into Israel killing not only Israeli soldiers, but Israeli civilians in the street, in their homes. Innocent people murdered, wounded, entire families taken hostage by Hamas just days after Israel marked the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. It’s unconscionable.
“You know, when I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, I told him the United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of this terrorist assaults. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop. There is never justification for terrorist acts.
“And my administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. Let me say this as clearly as I can: This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching... And let there be no mistake: The United States stands with the State of Israel, just as we have from the moment the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, 11 minutes after its founding, 75 years ago.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s statement on Oct. 8, 2023
“My thoughts continue to be with the people of Israel and the many families who have lost loved ones as a result of the abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas. Today, in response to this Hamas attack on Israel, and following detailed discussions with President Biden, I have directed several steps to strengthen Department of Defense posture in the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts.
“I have directed the movement of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean. This includes the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), as well as the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Carney (DDG 64), and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). We have also taken steps to augment U.S. Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region. The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required.
“In addition, the United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions. The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days.
“Strengthening our joint force posture, in addition to the materiel support that we will rapidly provide to Israel, underscores the United States' ironclad support for the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli people. My team and I will continue to be in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to ensure they have what they need to protect their citizens and defend themselves against these heinous terrorist attacks.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on CNN on Oct 8, 2023
SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – 50 years ago. But there’s a big difference. That was a conventional war between countries, between armies. This, a massive terrorist attack on Israeli civilians – indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilians, thousands of rockets; men and women and children dragged across the border into Gaza, including a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair; people gunned down in the streets, civilians. So, you can imagine the impact this is having on Israel, and it should be something that revolts the entire world.
QUESTION: Your administration, has been working to help craft a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Do you think that this attack was in part to disrupt that, and could that be successful?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Certainly, that could have been part of the motivation. Look, who opposes normalization? Hamas, Hizballah, Iran. So it wouldn’t be a surprise that part of the motivation may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together, along with other countries that may be interested in normalizing relations with Israel. So that’s certainly a factor. And I think it speaks to the fact that if we could achieve normalization, which is incredibly difficult – there are a lot of hard issues to work through – but if we could achieve it, it would bring even greater – it would bring greater stability to the region. It would move the region away from decades of turmoil, decades of conflict.
At the same time, what we’ve been very clear about and others have been very clear about is normalization cannot be a substitute for Israelis and Palestinians resolving their differences. In fact, it ought to be able to reinforce it, to strengthen it.
So there’s – there are really two paths for the region. One is a path of much greater integration, much greater stability, and a resolution of the challenges between Israelis and Palestinians, including equal measures of democracy, of opportunity, of justice, and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians. Or the path that Hamas is engaged in, a path of terror, of wreaking havoc in people’s lives, and of doing nothing to better the lives of Palestinians. On the contrary, every action that Hamas has taken is only making it worse for Palestinians as well as Israelis.
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, do you have evidence that Iran directed this attack?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: There’s a long relationship between Iran and Hamas. In fact, Hamas wouldn’t be around in the way that it is without the support that it’s received from Iran over the years. In this specific instance, we have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there’s certainly a long relationship. It’s one of the reasons why we have been resolutely taking action against Iran and its support for terrorists and terrorist proxies and other groups over the last few years of this administration. We’ve sanctioned more than 400 Iranian individuals and entities, precisely because of their support for things like Hamas.
President Biden's joint statement with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom
Today, we — President Macron of France, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom, and President Biden of the United States — express our steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism.
We make clear that the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned. There is never any justification for terrorism. In recent days, the world has watched in horror as Hamas terrorists massacred families in their homes, slaughtered over 200 young people enjoying a music festival, and kidnapped elderly women, children, and entire families, who are now being held as hostages.
Our countries will support Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities. We further emphasize that this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage.
All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But make no mistake: Hamas does not represent those aspirations, and it offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed.
Over the coming days, we will remain united and coordinated, together as allies, and as common friends of Israel, to ensure Israel is able to defend itself, and to ultimately set the conditions for a peaceful and integrated Middle East region.
President Biden’s statement on American citizens impacted in Israel on Oct. 9, 2023
“As we continue to account for the horrors of the appalling terrorist assault against Israel this weekend and the hundreds of innocent civilians who were murdered, we are seeing the immense scale and reach of this tragedy. Sadly, we now know that at least 11 American citizens were among those killed—many of whom made a second home in Israel.
“It’s heart wrenching. These families have been torn apart by inexcusable hatred and violence. We also know that American citizens still remain unaccounted for, and we are working with Israeli officials to obtain more information as to their whereabouts. My heart goes out to every family impacted by the horrible events of the past few days. The pain these families have endured, the enormity of their loss, and the agony of those still awaiting information is unfathomable.
“The safety of American citizens—whether at home or abroad—is my top priority as President. While we are still working to confirm, we believe it is likely that American citizens may be among those being held by Hamas. I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts.
“For American citizens who are currently in Israel, the State Department is providing consular assistance as well as updated security alerts. For those who desire to leave, commercial flights and ground options are still available. Please also take sensible precautions in the days ahead and follow the guidance of local authorities.
“This is not some distant tragedy. The ties between Israel and the United States run deep. It is personal for so many American families who are feeling the pain of this attack as well as the scars inflicted through millennia of antisemitism and persecution of Jewish people. In cities across the country, police departments have stepped up security around centers of Jewish life, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal law enforcement partners are closely monitoring for any domestic threats in connection with the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel.
“In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis. We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives. It is an outrage. And we will continue to show the world that the American people are unwavering in our resolve to oppose terrorism in all forms.
“The United States and the State of Israel are inseparable partners, and I affirmed to Prime Minister Netanyahu again when we spoke yesterday that the United States will continue to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself and its people.”
John Kirby of the National Security Council in remarks on Oct. 9, 2023
“On Iran, let me start by saying that no question that there's a degree of complicity here, but Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years -- tools, training, capabilities -- certainly rhetorically but in more much more tangible ways than that. So, absolutely, there's a degree of complicity here writ large. We are looking through the information streams. We haven't seen hard, tangible evidence that Iran was directly involved in participating in or resourcing and planning these sets of complex attacks that Hamas pulled off over the weekend. Again, we're going to keep looking at it. Our Israeli counterparts are also actively looking, and even they have publicly said they don't see the -- quote, unquote -- smoking gun. So we'll just keep -- we’ll just keep at it. We'll keep -- we'll keep trying to learn more. But obviously, nobody is walking away from the fact that Iran has long supported Hamas.”
President Biden's remarks on Oct. 10, 2023
"There are moments in this life -- and I mean this literally -- when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend. The bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas -- a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews. This was an act of sheer evil. More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered -- not just killed, slaughtered -- in Israel. Among them, at least 14 American citizens killed.
"Parents butchered using their bodies to try to protect their children. Stomach-turning reports of being -- babies being killed. Entire families slain. Young people massacred while attending a musical festival to celebrate peace -- to celebrate peace. Women raped, assaulted, paraded as trophies. Families hid their fear for hours and hours, desperately trying to keep their children quiet to avoid drawing attention. And thousands of wounded, alive but carrying with them the bullet holes and the shrapnel wounds and the memory of what they endured. You all know these traumas never go away.
"There are still so many families desperately waiting to hear the fate of their loved ones, not knowing if they’re alive or dead or hostages. Infants in their mothers’ arms, grandparents in wheelchairs, Holocaust survivors abducted and held hostage -- hostages whom Hamas has now threatened to execute in violation of every code of human morality. It’s abhorrent. The brutality of Hamas -- this bloodthirstiness -- brings to mind the worst -- the worst rampages of ISIS. This is terrorism.
"But sadly, for the Jewish people, it’s not new. This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people. So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack. There is no justification for terrorism. There is no excuse.
"Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields. Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed with no regard to who pays the price.
The loss of innocent life is heartbreaking. Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond -- indeed has a duty to respond -- to these vicious attacks... For 75 years, Israel has stood as the ultimate guarantor of security of Jewish people around the world so that the atrocities of the past could never happen again. And let there be no doubt: The United States has Israel’s back. We will make sure the Jewish and democratic State of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have. It’s as simple as that."
President Biden's remarks on Oct. 11, 2023
"We’re surging additional military assistance to the Israeli Defense Force, including ammunition interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome. And we have moved a U.S. Carrier fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean, and we’re sending more fighter jets there into that region and made it clear — made it clear to the Iranians, “Be careful.”
Secretary Blinken's remarks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 12, 2023
"We’re delivering on our word – supplying ammunition, interceptors to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, alongside other defense materiel. The first shipments of U.S. military support have already arrived in Israel, and more is on the way. As Israel’s defense needs evolve, we will work with Congress to make sure that they’re met. And I can tell you there is overwhelming – overwhelming – bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security.
"Here in Israel, and everywhere, we will reaffirm the crystal-clear warning that President Biden issued yesterday to any adversary – state or non-state – thinking of taking advantage of the current crisis to attack Israel: Don’t. The United States has Israel’s back. We’ve deployed the world’s largest aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean. We’ve bolstered the presence of U.S. fighter aircraft in the region. We’re providing other support as well. We continue working closely with Israel to secure the release of the men, women, children, elderly people taken hostage by Hamas."
Secretary Austin's remarks with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Oct. 13, 2023
"At President Biden's direction, we have moved urgently to respond to this crisis and to send a strong message of deterrence. The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is now in the region, led by the largest aircraft carrier in the world. We've augmented U.S. fighter aircraft squadrons in the Middle East, and the U.S. Department of Defense stands fully ready to deploy additional assets, if necessary.
"As President Biden has said, 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. The world is watching and so are we, and we aren't going anywhere. 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. That includes munitions and air defense capabilities and other equipment and resources. It also includes more interceptors for Iron Dome to save Israeli lives, and we will continue to ensure that Israel has what it needs to keep itself secure.
"Now, Hamas attacked at a time of global challenge, but the United States is the most powerful country in the world, and we remain fully able to project power and uphold our commitments and direct resources to multiple theaters. So we will stand with Israel even as we stand with Ukraine. The United States can walk and chew gum at the same time, and U.S. security assistance to Israel will flow in at the speed of war, and as this harrowing week draws to a close and as Shabbat draws near, we stand together and we stand strong. The United States has Israel's back, and that is not negotiable, and it never will be."
NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby's remarks on Oct. 13, 2023
“We don't have any indication at this moment that Hezbollah has made some sort of a decision to go all-in here and to expand or widen the conflict. But again, we're watching this very, very closely… And all I can tell you is thus far we haven't seen any other external actor indicate a willingness or readiness to widen and deepen this conflict.”
President Biden's interview with CBS News on Oct. 13, 2023
Scott Pelley: Would you support Israeli occupation of Gaza at this point?
President Biden: I think it'd be a big mistake. Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that...It would be a mistake to...for Israel to occupy...Gaza again. We...but going in but taking out the extremists the Hezbollah is up north but Hamas down south. Is a necessary requirement.
Pelley: Do you believe that Hamas must be eliminated entirely?
President Biden: Yes, I do. But there needs to be a Palestinian authority. There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state. That path, called "the two state solution," has been U.S. policy for decades. It would create an independent nation next to Israel for 5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza and on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
Pelley: There's limited fighting already on the northern Israeli border, and I wonder what is your message to Hezbollah and its backer, Iran?
President Biden: Don't. Don't, don't, don't.
Pelley: Don't come across the border? Don't escalate this war?
President Biden: That's right.
Pelley: Is Iran behind the Gaza war?
President Biden: I don't wanna get into classified information. But to be very blunt with you, there is no clear evidence of that.
Pelley: At this point, no evidence that Iran is behind any of this?
President Biden: Correct. Now, Iran constantly supports Hamas and Hezbollah. I don't mean that. But in terms of did they have foreknowledge; did they help plan the attack-- there's no evidence of that at this point.
National Security Advisor Sullivan's interview on CBS on Oct. 15, 2023
MARGARET BRENNAN: The United States deployed a second aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. I'm wondering if you have new intelligence that shows that the threat from Iran is growing.
SULLIVAN: We don't have some specific new intelligence that the threat is different today from yesterday. The threat yesterday was real. The threat today is real. There is a risk of an escalation of this conflict, the opening of a second front in the north, and of course of Iran's involvement- that is a risk. And that's a risk that we have been mindful of since the start. It's why the President moves so rapidly and decisively to get an aircraft carrier into the eastern Mediterranean, to get aircraft into the Gulf, because he wants to send a very clear message of deterrence to any state or any actor that would seek to exploit this situation. And he said it best when he spoke last week, in the aftermath of this brutal and vicious terrorist attack to any state that would think about doing this: don't.
BRENNAN: Well, Iran's foreign minister put out a public statement saying that Iran cannot remain a spectator. What does that mean to you? Are you concerned about proxy forces? Are you concerned that the State of Iran is getting drawn in?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, we are concerned about proxy forces. Lebanese Hezbollah, a proxy force of Iran, is there, a raid on Israel's northern border with considerable military capacity and a history of attacking the State of Israel. And in fact, we have seen in the last few days skirmishes across that northern border that only enhances the risk of escalation. But of course, we can't rule out that Iran would choose to get directly engaged some way; we have to prepare for every possible contingency. That's exactly what the President has done. That is part of what has motivated the President's movement of these assets, to send that clear message of deterrence to make clear that this war should not escalate, and that no other actor should seek to exploit this situation.
BRENNAN: Is there diplomatic outreach to Iran right now?
SULLIVAN: We have means of communicating privately with Iran. And we have availed ourselves of those means over the past few days to make clear privately that which we have said publicly.
Secretary of State Blinken's statement on Oct. 15, 2023
“President Biden has appointed former Ambassador David Satterfield as the Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues. Special Envoy Satterfield will lead U.S. diplomacy to urgently address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including work to facilitate the provision of life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people and promote the safety of civilians, in coordination with the United Nations and U.S. partners. He will lead a whole-of-government campaign to mitigate the humanitarian fallout of Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel, supporting critical efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. His role builds on the long-standing U.S. commitment to supporting peace and stability in the region.”
Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh's statement on Oct. 17, 2023
“Today, Secretary Austin placed approximately 2,000 personnel and a range of units on a heightened state of readiness through a prepare to deploy order, which increases DoD's ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East. No decisions have been made to deploy any forces at this time. The Secretary will continue to assess our force posture and remain in close contact with allies and partners. Additionally, he approved a deployment extension for the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Sixth Fleet Area of Operations. The strike group was nearing the end of its six-month deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.”