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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a Joint Press Conference in Israel (As Prepared)

Good afternoon, everyone.

Yoav, we've been in close touch, but it's good to see you again in person. 

And it's good to be back in Israel — even during such terrible days. 

As the U.S. Secretary of Defense, I am here in person to make something crystal-clear. 

America's support for Israel's security is ironclad. 

And I extend my deepest condolences to the Israeli people for those killed or wounded in this terrible slaughter by Hamas. 

I'm also here in solidarity with all the families still living the waking nightmare of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. And we will continue to coordinate closely with Israel to help secure the release of the innocent men, women, and children in the clutches of Hamas — including American citizens. 

Now, Israel is a small country — a place where everybody knows everybody. And in times of trial, the intimacy of your society deepens the intimacy of your grief. 

But that's not a weakness. 

It is a profound strength. 

And in times of testing, Israelis know what to do.

Over this awful week, we've seen Israeli hotels and homes take in those who've had to flee. We've seen long lineups to donate blood. We've seen WhatsApp explode with messages as people raced to support neighbors in anguish. 

And perhaps because I'm a retired general, I was especially moved by the story of a retired general named Noam Tibon.

His son called him on Saturday from his home near Gaza to say that Hamas terrorists had stormed their kibbutz and were closing in. And the retired general jumped into his car in Tel Aviv, raced toward the combat zone, linked up with other fighters — and rescued his son, his daughter-in-law, and his granddaughters.

And when the general arrived at their house, one of his granddaughters just said, "Grandpa is here." 

Those are rays of hope in a terrible week.

And in times like these, sometimes the best thing that a friend can do is to just show up. 

And get to work. 

Now, this is no time for neutrality, or for false equivalence, or for excuses for the inexcusable. 

There is never any justification for terrorism. And that's especially true after this rampage by Hamas.

And anyone who wants lasting peace and security for this region must condemn and isolate Hamas. 

Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people, or their legitimate hopes for dignity, security, and statehood and peace alongside Israel. 

As a former commander of Central Command, the deliberate cruelty of Hamas vividly reminds me of ISIS: bloodthirsty, fanatical, and hateful. And like ISIS, Hamas has nothing to offer but zealotry, bigotry, and death. 

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. 

So make no mistake. The United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. And Israel has a right to protect its people. 

In their many phone calls this week, President Biden has told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the United States would also respond swiftly and decisively to such a massive terrorist assault.

And the President also underscored that democracies like ours are stronger and more secure when we uphold the laws of war. 

Terrorists like Hamas deliberately target civilians.

But democracies don't. 

This is a time for resolve, and not revenge. 

For purpose, and not panic. 

And for security, and not surrender. 

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, for 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. 

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, air-defense capacities, and other key 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 moment of global challenge. 

But the United States is the most powerful country in the world. And we remain fully able to project power, 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. 

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.

That is not negotiable. 

And it never will be. 

And after this terrible week, I wish you and all the people of Israel a Shabbat Shalom. 

Thank you.