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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds an Off-Camera, On-the-Record Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: I don't have anything up at the top, so happy to just jump in and start taking questions, so, sure, Will, why don't you start us off?

Q: So I've got a couple. Just to follow up on something that was contained in the backgrounder, how concerned is the U.S. about being drawn into a broader conflict with Iran as a result of this kind of strike and attacks on American forces in the Middle East?

MS. SINGH: Well, as you heard our background briefer say, the U.S. is -- that's exactly what we don't want to see. We don't want to see this conflict widen out into a broader regional conflict, so keeping it contained to Israel and Gaza is something that remains our focus, which is why you've seen the secretary sweep assets and resources into the region to help bolster our posture and deterrence, as well. But that's something that we don't want to see have happened.

Q: And then a more specific question. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq Group has just claimed an attack on the Conoco gas field in Syria, a rocket attack. Are you tracking anything on that, or…

MS. SINGH: I'm not tracking on anything on that right now. I'm happy to give just like a -- that's what I was trying to do, and kind of get my -- get organized here. And I'm sorry it was not right at the top, but I don't have anything on that specifically, but over the weekend we did see three additional attacks on U.S. forces. All were within Syria. There were no casualty or damage to any of our personnel or infrastructure.

Without getting into what you were just referencing, Will, because I just don't have more details on that, on attacks to U.S. coalition forces, there have been 14 separate attacks in Iraq and nine separate attacks in Syria, and that's by a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets.

Okay. Yeah, hey, Mike.

Q: Hey, Sabrina. On -- on those numbers, it was said, something interesting, this morning, that it sounds like you guys are only counting attacks that actually hit the base or would have hit the base. Is that -- is that right? Could you explain that? And then I've got a -- another one.

MS. SINGH: Sure. I would say the way we're characterizing attacks is a direct hit to our personnel, infrastructure, or within the proximity.

Q: Okay. So are there other attacks that have been launched that you're not categorizing them as such?

MS. SINGH: We're being conservative and deliberate on how we are characterizing attacks. So an attack that happens four, five, six kilometers away, we're not counting as an attack on our forces.

Q: And then one won't answer.


MS. SINGH: Great.

Q: Do you believe the Israelis, in the tactics and operations they have exhibited on the ground so far, have listened to U.S. questions and observations?

MS. SINGH: We certainly think that our conversations both here at the department and across other agencies and all the way up to the president have certainly informed and at least guided some of what the Israelis are doing on the ground in their ground operation, but we're not directing them. We're not providing anything other than asking the questions that we ourselves would ask any partner or ally of what to consider when it comes to any type of ground incursion.

So I would say that, you know, it's been an ongoing conversation. The secretary has near-daily calls with Minister Gallant; likely will have another one today. Something that the secretary continues to bring up is the need for the protection of innocent civilians on the ground. And you're not just hearing that from this department; you're hearing that across -- across agencies and at the White House, as well.

Hey, Phil.

Q: Hey. It's just -- and I may have missed it, but the three attacks over the weekend, were those in Syria?

MS. SINGH: Yes, all three were…starting on October 30th, working back, yeah, all -- all were in Syria, at Euphrates in Syria on the 30th, and also in Green Village on the 30th, and then on the 29th at (inaudible).

Q: Okay. And then you said that U.S. conversations with Israel have guided their operations. What do you mean by "guided"?

MS. SINGH: Maybe I should rephrase. The way our -- as you saw, General Glynn was on the ground. The way our -- I would say we've been interacting with the IDF and certainly, with Minister Gallant is asking the questions that we would ask ourselves on how to best preserve civilian lives on the ground, but also helping them understand how complicated urban warfare is, and that's why you saw General Glynn, who has - I would say - a specialty background on this, was there providing his advice on just how complicated urban warfare could be.

Yeah, Laura?

Q: So just to follow up, is General Glynn still advising the IDF from here? He's not in Israel.

MS. SINGH: He's not.

Q: Right? And what -- can you just talk about what that looks like now?

MS. SINGH: He's no longer in Israel. Again, he was on the ground because he has a -- I would say a, I don't know if "expertise" is the right word, but certainly has background in urban warfare, but he's since returned.

Q: Okay, is he still advising?


Q: Is that -- there's no advising going on?


Q: Okay. And then just can you say how many -- just so I know, there have been no casualties or injuries since the 18th in Iraq or Syria?

MS. SINGH: That's right. I don't have anything to read out. You know, again, we've been very clear that if there -- if there are, we would certainly let you know. But as of -- where I'm speaking to you right now, there have not been.

Q: Okay.

MS. SINGH: Yeah?

Q: Thank you. I have a question on China.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: So China started its security forum in Beijing, and according to some reports, DOD (inaudible) for China since they have cut off their brief exchange with Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson. Could you please confirm that?

MS. SINGH: Are you talking about the meetings from last week?

Q: So the forum started this Sunday…

MS. SINGH: Oh, I'm sorry. Okay, I don't have anything -- I don't have anything on that, or in the forum generally right now. You saw the administration, I think it was Thursday or Friday, put out readouts of meetings that we had with PRC officials, so I'd just let those stand.

All right, I didn't even see you there. Hello.

Q: Tucked away.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: So given that we have a new speaker now, has the secretary engaged at all with the new speaker? And when they go up to the Hill tomorrow, how much outreach has happened to try and get funding moving for these Israel packages and for Ukraine packages?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any calls to read out in terms of Speaker Johnson or any calls or engagements to read out from the secretary. As you mentioned, the secretary will be on the Hill tomorrow. One of the things that this department continues to do is advocate for Congress to pass our supplemental request, which is not just aid for Israel, but is aid for Ukraine and other defense priorities. So you're going to see the secretary continue to advocate for that when he's on the Hill, and we've been doing so both publicly and privately, and also when there was not a speaker, we were continuing to advocate for Congress to pass the supplemental.

Q: Okay. Just a couple more. Give some of the civilian casualties, the kids, et cetera, and the U.S. continues to push, apparently, weapons every day now, has there been any consideration to putting limits on or telling Israel what sort of limitations there could be on the use of these weapons?

MS. SINGH: We are not putting any limits on how Israel uses weapons that is provided. That is really up to the Israel Defense Force to use in how they are going to conduct their operations. But we're not putting any constraints on that. But again, I would reiterate that in all of our conversations that the secretary has with, whether it's Minister Gallant or with other -- across the interagency at the White House, we continue to advocate that humanitarian laws, the law of armed conflict, are always upheld and that Israel should do just that when implementing its ground operation in Gaza.

Q: And lastly, did you have a chance to get to the taken question on just how many troops are now sent and the number of ships…

MS. SINGH: So in terms of -- I don't really have any update since we've last briefed. You know that there are 900 forces that have deployed to the region. That's a mix of those that were on PTDO and those that are accompanying the Patriot batteries.

In terms of Naval presence, I know you're well aware that we have the Ford Carrier Strike Group in the eastern Mediterranean and we have the Ike making its way over to the CENTCOM AOR. But no other updates to provide.


Q: Thanks. Just really quickly on that -- Aside from any additional troops to have deployed, have any other troops been put on PTDO since last week?

MS. SINGH: Not that I have an update to announce today on any additional troops to put on PTDO. We have, you know, I think since on Thursday, when General Ryder briefed, but I don't have anything more to add to that.

Q: And then also, outside of tomorrow, obviously, with the secretary being on the Hill, has he had any additional conversation in the last few weeks regarding some of these Middle East commanders who are still being stuck in this process?

Is he, like, ramping up having those conversations, wanting to get them through more urgently, or what does that look like?

MS. SINGH: Are you -- when you say that, are you referring to Senator Tuberville's hold?

Q: Yeah, yeah, the hold, yeah.

MS. SINGH: So the holds continue, and continue to grow, unfortunately. In all of our conversations with the Hill, it's not just the CENTCOM AOR that has -- is impacted by these holds; it's also EUCOM; it's here at the Pentagon. So in all of our conversations we're advocating for all of the -- all of our nominees to get through, for the holds to be lifted.

I wouldn't say there's one priority focus or the other. We are -- we are continuing to be in touch with the Senate on the best way -- or, sorry, the best way forward. And that's really up to them to decide on how they decide to lift these holds. But we're going to continue advocating for all of our general and flag officers.


Q: How many holds are there now? 

MS. SINGH: Yes, hold on. I should know this off the top of my head. And so we have, right now, 378 general and flag officers nominations that are held up right now.

Q: And then on -- just one on Israel. So -- so, in all the readouts, and then you guys keep saying that you continue to advocate for law of armed conflict to be followed and the law of war to be adhered to by Israel. But I'm curious, now that there have been air strikes there for almost three weeks now, and now there seems to be at least elements of a ground incursion, does the U.S. assess that Israel is following the law of armed conflict and following the law of war, or have you seen -- are there violations?

And then I'm wondering, in these conversations the secretary and others are having, I guess just the secretary as this is the Pentagon, that he's having with his counterpart, is there -- is there a stick that he's, kind of -- that he's saying to Minister Gallant? Is he saying, like, "Look, if you -- we're -- we are -- we're advocating for you to follow the law, and if you don't, we'll stop sending you the weapons that we don't know how many shipments have gone over yet?"

MS. SINGH: So I'll let the IDF speak to their operations. I'm not going to go beyond what the secretary has said. We've put out readouts of those calls. We are very clear in our conversations, and we've been very clear both publicly and privately. We're going to continue to do that. But I'm just going to leave it at that.

Q: But the one thing that the Pentagon loves to do is plan, and the other thing they love to do is assess.

So I'm wondering --


-- is there an assessment about -- about what you have --


Q: I know. I've read. We've all heard it. I know. It's a rumor.

But is there actually an -- there must be an assessment that exists that says that Israel is or is not following the law. I mean, the law is -- it's clear, right? So -- and you guys -- and it feels like it's really being impressed upon more and more. It's, like, the first thing getting mentioned in the readouts now. So it must really be something that is a major part of the conversation.

So do you believe that Israel is following the law still? And what --

MS. SINGH: So I -- this will be unsatisfactory, but I'm just --


MS. SINGH: I will reiterate -- I know, but I will reiterate that it's the IDF's operation. What we are doing in our private and public conversations is reiterating to them that they uphold the humanitarian laws, the law of armed conflict. You're -- you noted it yourself. It continues to be in our readouts. It's something that the secretary's very focused on, and not just the secretary but across the administration. But I'm just not going to go beyond that.

Yeah, Liz?

Q: Hey, thank you. So why are the attacks, the attempted attacks on U.S. bases in the Middle East -- like, why are those starting October 17th? Is that timing with the hospital bombing?

And then can we get a count on, like, how many attacks, or attempted attacks on U.S. bases there were between the 7th and 17th?

I wonder if, like, how, or exactly when those started ramping up. And then any numbers before the 7th?

MS. SINGH: I'm not tracking any attacks between the 7th and 17th. When we started seeing attacks on U.S. forces was starting the 17th and then starting to track from there. Again, these are Iran-backed proxy groups that are launching these attacks. In terms of when they coincided, I'm sorry, I just wouldn't be able to speak to that or why that date. But as you saw, we responded on, I believe it was October 26, and if there are more attacks and the United States chooses to respond, we will.

Q: What does the U.S. equate this, like, ramping up of attacks to? You guys have said before it's not connected to Israel. What is it connected to?

MS. SINGH: Well, I wouldn't be able to speak for these IRGC-affiliated groups. But, look, you can see tensions in the region rising. Certainly, we wouldn't -- we don't want this conflict to widen out, but why the IRGC backers are launching these attacks -- I mean, we saw this earlier this year in March. And once we responded, you know, they did stop.

But there are two separate incidences. We do have the conflict that is right now contained to Israel and Gaza, and then of course you have our own U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria that are there for the Defeat ISIS mission. We've seen attacks on our troops there before that were not related to this. So that's why we do have to remember that we've seen this behavior before and that's why we've got to keep it separated.

Yeah, hey.

Q: Yeah, thanks. Clarifying question from the Thursday strike. A senior military official told us there were two F-16s involved. And the Pentagon put out a statement Friday saying it was F-16s and F-15s. So which aircraft dropped the ordnance, of those two? Do you have any additional details on that? And the senior military official also told us they -- DOD was waiting for the dust to settle on the damage. So has the dust settled, and can you give us an update on the damage to this facility?

MS. SINGH: So I think we put out a statement what you're referring to on Friday on that -- I don't have more for you, other than what we put out. In terms of the damage, what we assess is there have been no casualties, but we did infrastructure, key infrastructure to these groups that used those facilities. But in terms of further BDA, I just don't have that.

Q: So you did completely destroy? What is "destroy," if I could --

MS. SINGH: I'm going to leave it at destroy.

Q: Okay.


Q: Hi, Sabrina. We’ve heard before, especially earlier today, that there's still consideration ongoing about the destination of some of these systems that are headed to the region – for information protection reasons. Wondering if any of the destinations under consideration include sites that could help the United States or could enable the United States to protect or help protect gulf partners, infrastructure, whether, you know, private or state industry or this is exclusive on US bases?

MS. SINGH: Right now, our focus has been the protection of our U.S. forces, so that's what these air defense systems are really going towards. But we're not getting into specific locations.

Do I see a hand? Yes?

Q: Two things. One on the Israelian rocket attacks, is it the Pentagon's assessment that all these are targeted, and they are trying to actually hit U.S. bases or is there an assessment that some of these are for show and making noise. And in that sense, perhaps, the deterrence strikes may have worked to some degree?

And then on the situation in Gaza, we've heard numerous officials, including the senior defense official earlier talk about how Hamas' use of human shields and using other civilian infrastructure to hide their facilities is well-documented.

At this point, have the Israelis shared anything with the Pentagon that shows Hamas is, in fact, doing that right now or does the U.S. have its own assessment of intelligence showing that Hamas is using things like Al-Shifa Hospital and other locations as shields for their military operations?

MS. SINGH: So, I won't get into specific intelligence and what we share with the Israelis and what we -- and what they share with us. But on your -- on your first question, and I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

Q: Yes, is the assessment given the number of reports we have about drones and missile strikes today, which is much greater than the actual number of strikes that you're reporting, is it the assessment that they're just incompetent and they can't it or is the assessment that they're doing this to show like they're doing something but they're not actually trying to hit it?

MS. SINGH: Well, I don't know who their spokesperson is, but I would direct you to them. I can't really speak for them and their success. Yes?

Q: So, in terms of ramping up the strikes, you mentioned that there's been -- not the strikes, the attacks on the U.S. forces, you mentioned that this happened in March. Do you have an idea of how much of an increase we've seen like percentage wise at this time right now versus, you know --

MS. SINGH: So, back then in March?

Q: In March wasn't generally -

MS. SINGH: I don't. I don't have a -- I don't have like a calculation that I can offer at this time. Also, don't make me do math. Courtney?

Q: Great. Yes, sorry I missed the top. But my -- I understand that there have been no additional injuries to U.S. troops other than the ones we know about, which I think are 19?

MS. SINGH: I think when General Ryder briefed there was, yes, approximately 20.

Q: And they had all returned to -

MS. SINGH: They have all returned to -

Q: Is that still true? Is anybody like found to be -- or assessed to be more injured than…

MS. SINGH: Not that I -- not that I have to read out today or any other additional injuries. Yes?

Q: Sabrina, there are some local media reports in Iraq about a new missile attack in the past two hours - hours are you tracking these things? And the second question, does the United States bare any moral and legal responsibility for the Israeli use of U.S. weapons to kill civilians in Gaza?

MS. SINGH: Well, I think you heard me say at the top and we'll reiterate that. Of course, we value all civilian -- innocent civilian lives. We've been very clear in our conversations with the Israelis, that they do uphold humanitarian law. That they follow the law of armed conflict. So, of course, we don't want to take innocent civilians, whether that be a Palestinian, whether Israeli, American, whatever their nationality or race is, we don't want to see any innocent civilians be killed in this conflict. This is an IDF operation, so again, I'd let them speak to their operations, but we've been very clear both publicly and privately where the U.S. stands on this.

Q: Can I ask just one follow-up on that?

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: But is there any concern in the building that as this goes forward, this could actually blow back on the U.S. and potentially put more U.S. troops in harm because our weapons that we're providing are being used to kill innocent civilians?

MS. SINGH: So again, I know that this has been asked, and Wafaa just asked that as well. This is an IDF operation.

Q: I know, but --

MS. SINGH: And -- let me just --

Q: -- as far as, like, the --


Q: -- thinking and planning long term, as the building does, like, is there any sort of growing concern that this could eventually come back to haunt us, I guess, in a way?

MS. SINGH: I can't emphasize enough how clear we have been both publicly and privately for the Israelis to uphold the law of war and preserving humanitarian corridors or innocent civilians to leave. But I think also we have to remember that Hamas is the one that is putting civilians into harm's way and using that as human shields. We are going to continue to engage with the IDF and with the Israelis on their operations and making sure that they are, in their thinking, prioritizing civilian lives. We'll just leave it at that.

I think it -- Tony, and then (inaudible).

Q: Can we get a list of U.S. weapons that have been committed to Israel all -- similar to what you've put out for Ukraine? There's this running narrative that 155s are running low and, you know, can -- but a list of roughly what's been committed similar to what you put out nicely about Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: I can't give you - I don't know that I'd be able to give you a full list because, again, how we're supplying Israel with our weapons is very different from how we're providing Ukraine its weapons. But I think you've heard our background briefer describe that we're providing air defense, artillery, precision-guided munitions. So those are the buckets right now that we're providing, or the support that we're providing Israel, so I'm just going to have to leave it at that at this moment.


Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Thank you. Yeah, a couple of quick ones. On Jordan, this other request over the weekend, I know you probably can't – I - we saw that Jordan made the request.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: Does the Pentagon have the capacity and the inventory to provide them with Patriot missile system?

MS. SINGH: I'm just not going to get into any more specifics on where our Patriots are going. They're -- they are there for the protection of U.S. forces, but for the request that Jordan made, I'd direct you to them about that.

Q: Okay, so there was a senior defense official this morning that said that it's -- sort of intimated that it's one of the areas that poten- -- so could it potentially be sent there?

MS. SINGH: I'm (inaudible).

Q: Okay, and then -- and then on -- on General Glynn, could you give us a little bit more insight of the -- some -- for examples about the kind of advice that he gave to his Israeli partners?

MS. SINGH: Well, what I mentioned is that one of the things that we certainly -- or we have lessons learned from urban warfare, whether it was in Mosul or in Fallujah, and so that was one of the things that General Glynn brought to the table of just how complicated urban warfare can be, and asking the right questions of the Israelis on -- in terms of their planning and how they were thinking through their operation.

Q: That was a tremendously destructive operation and, you know, could cost thousands civilian lives. So is the U.S. a good arbiter or -- I mean, is it good to be giving advice on this front from that experience?

MS. SINGH: I'm going to let my comment stand.

Kelly, do you have one more?

Q: Yeah, I -- I missed the top of it, but I know the conversations that they're having at the White House with some of the officials there. Just curious if there's any new information from that or just the -- in the context of trying to prevent a wider war. What are some new updates around that?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything more to provide on conversations at the White House. I would direct you to the White House for that.

In terms of -- I'm sorry, are you asking, like, what are we doing to prevent this from expanding out?

Q: Are there any updates in the deterrence effort?

MS. SINGH: Nothing more than what I read out at the beginning. As you know, we have two carrier strike groups, one that's already in the eastern Med, the other that's making its way to the CENTCOM AOR. We have surged airpower into the region with our F-16s, F-15s and A-10s. So we are certainly sending a message of deterrence, but no -- nothing more to add or read out.

Q: Okay.

MS. SINGH: I'm going to have to leave it there, guys.