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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you had a restful Thanksgiving holiday. I have just a few things to get to at the top and we'll get right to your questions.

Today the United States airlifted 24.5 metric tons, or more than 54,000 pounds, of U.N. humanitarian supplies to provide vitally-needed medical supplies, warm clothing, and food, and nutrition assistance to the people of Gaza. At the request of USAID, these supplies were transported via a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft and arrived today in Egypt where they will be transported via ground into Gaza and then distributed by U.N. agencies.

Additional flights are expected in the coming days. And this aid is in addition to the more than 500,000 pounds of food assistance delivered by the United States last week via USAID-contracted aircraft to el-Arish, Egypt, for onward travel to Gaza. For more information about these ongoing efforts, I would refer you to USAID.

Separately, Secretary Austin also will travel to California December 1-2nd. On Friday, he will host Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Richard Marles, and U.K.'s Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps, at Moffett Field to discuss the Australia-United Kingdom-United States security partnership, or AUKUS, on the campus of DOD's Defense Innovation Unit.

The secretary will also spend time with DIU personnel who are accelerating the adoption of leading commercial technology throughout the U.S. military and growing the national security innovation base.

Secretary Austin will then travel to Simi Valley to deliver a keynote address on Saturday at the 2023 Reagan National Defense Forum where he will emphasize America's global leadership and strength at home at a time of testing, as well as the department's efforts to build enduring advantages through accelerating force development, capitalizing on the latest technology, and making investments in the department's people. The trip announcement with additional details will be posted to the DOD website today.

And with that, I'm happy to take your questions. We'll start with Associated Press, Tara Copp.

Q: Hi, General Ryder. Thanks for doing this. Just on that aid shipment, is that the first time that U.S. military aircraft has been used to fly aid to -- for Gazans?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, that is correct.

Q: OK. And...

GEN. RYDER: In terms of humanitarian...

Q: I'm sorry?

GEN. RYDER: In terms of humanitarian assistance, aid, correct.

Q: OK. And then secondly, with the ceasefire announcement, it seems like there have been no attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since last week. Have -- our facilities, have they been reaching out at all to groups in the area to make sure that that peace lasts or is there any communication at all?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Tara. So, as you highlight, there have been no attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since November 23rd, since the operational pause began in Israel. Again, our forces are there for one reason and that's to stay focused on the Defeat ISIS mission. And so we will continue to focus on that mission, as well as ensuring that our forces are protected. Should there be any additional attacks, we would certainly hope that that's not the case, but we will be prepared to respond accordingly if there are any additional attacks on our forces.

All right, let me go back to the room here, Jennifer?

Q: Pat, I'd like to ask you about the ballistic missiles that were fired by the Houthis just on Sunday. Do you consider that the U.S. Navy was the target of those missiles? And what evidence do you have that they were or weren't? And why is the U.S. not responding to these kind of persistent probing...


Q: ... of U.S. forces?

GEN. RYDER: So a couple updates on that front. So as it pertains to the incident with the missiles, right now, our current analysis is that we know that there was at least one missile fired. We're continuing to look into that, whether it was one or two, but we know that there was at least one missile. And we also at this point assess that the vessels, the Mason and the Central Park, were not the intended targets.

That said, I can't speak for what the intended targets -- target was, and would have to refer you to the Houthi rebels to talk to that.

Q: But how can you say that the USS Mason or Central Park were not the target? What would be the target if not...

GEN. RYDER: Again, that's a great question. That's something that we're continuing to analyze. As you've heard us say, this missile landed approximately 10 nautical miles away from these vessels. But again, current assessment right now is that it was not specific -- the ships were not specifically being targeted.

Q: Is the U.S. planning any sort of military action against the Houthis?

GEN. RYDER: Well, look, when it comes to our forces, as I highlighted, we're going to do whatever we need to do to ensure that they stay protected. I'm not going to telegraph or forecast or speculate on any potential strikes that we might take in the region, other than to say we will do what's necessary to protect our forces.

Q: And lastly, the IRGC released some footage of some drone video of the USS Eisenhower passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Were you aware that there was a Iranian drone up above the -- the Ike?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'm aware of those reports. We're looking into that, and so don't have anything to pass along now, but if we do, we certainly will let you know. Thank you.


Q: (inaudible). Yesterday, senior administration officials said that the Israeli -- the anticipated Israeli campaign in south -- in southern Gaza can't be the same as -- as it was in the north in terms of the number of the people that were displaced and in terms of the targeting of hospitals, water and power and U.N.-supported shelters. Can you speak to any of the conversations that the secretary's had with his Israeli counterparts on that -- on that front, and can you elaborate on it?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. Without getting into the specifics of the conversations, you've seen in the readouts that we've issued - that a topic of discussion between Secretary Austin and the Israeli minister of defense continues to be the importance of conducting operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict, protecting civilians and ensuring that aid does get into Gaza, and so that will continue to be a focus going forward. We certainly do not want to see innocent civilians being harmed or impacted to a greater extent than they have been already. And so that, I'm sure, will continue to be a focus of our conversation.

Q: So does the Pentagon share that assessment, that the -- whatever -- if there's a campaign in the south, Israeli campaign in the south, that it cannot be the same as -- carried out the same way as it (inaudible)...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so it would be inappropriate for me from the podium as a military spokesman to start talking about IDF operations and what they should and shouldn't do on the ground. Certainly, it's their operation. But again, within the contours of understanding the importance of protecting civilian lives, innocent civilian lives, while at the same time, going after the terrorist group Hamas that inflicted pain and suffering not only on the Israeli people, but on the Palestinian people. You know, that will continue to be a priority for us.

Let me go to Haley.

Q: Thanks. I want to ask about the source numbers in the TDIs that we've seen over the last several weeks. Do you believe that everyone who may be experiencing that has come forward, or are you seeing any more people may be asking to get screened? And then just given sort of the persistent nature that we've seen of these attacks, is there any proactive screening being done instead of just waiting for people to come to you, but going to them and -- and, you know, sort of giving them the information to know that -- if they can tell if something's wrong?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Haley. So I don't have any new updates to provide in terms of folks, you know, in Iraq and Syria that have been diagnosed with TBIs. You know we've been providing that information as it becomes available. History has shown, experience has shown that sometimes, there are latent symptoms, and so servicemembers certainly are screened, especially when you're in a deployed environment, you know, whether that be self-reporting or whether your teammates noticed something. So that's something that we will continue to stay on top of, but I don't have any new numbers to provide beyond what we've already passed along to you. Thanks.

Let me go over here -- Meghann? Or Erin -- sorry.

Q: So USSPACECOM has stated the satellite that North Korea launched did enter orbit. So can you state that the satellite was a a success?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks Erin. So we are aware that the DPRK's launch of a space-launched vehicle did -- you know, was conducted. We're aware that it did enter into orbit, and that it involved ballistic missile technology. But beyond that, at this point, I'm not going to have any further details to provide.

Q: There seems to be some discrepancy, because since it did enter orbit, what constitutes a successful launch?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I'll leave it to others to define successful launch. Your question was did it go into orbit? And so again, we do know that it went into orbit. For something to go into orbit, it needs to escape Earth's gravity and be able to be sustained, you know, in orbit around the Earth. So really, it would be up to the North Koreans to define what the parameters of this launch were and what they were hoping to achieve. I'm not going to speak to that, other than to say, again, we do know that it's in orbit. We will continue to stay in close consultation with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies, as well as other regional partners and allies and monitor that closely. Thank you.

Let me go to phone here, and I'll come back in room. Phil Stewart, Reuters?

Q: Yeah, hi. Just trying to drill into the idea that the -- at least two missiles -- or the missile, or two missiles that were fired off Yemen, that was just truly a coincidence then? Was that -- was that the understanding?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Phil. So I'm not going to characterize it. I'm just going to provide the facts as we know them, and right now, as we continue to analyze this, as I mentioned, we are aware that there was at least one missile, and at this point, our assessment is that those ships were not specifically targeted. As to what was being targeted, again, that's something that we'll continue to look into. So that -- those are the facts as I have them right now.

Q: And -- and do you believe the (inaudible)...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Let me go to Jeff Schogol.

Q: Thank you. Given that the Pentagon is under a continuing resolution, is it having to move funds from training and maintenance accounts in order to pay for operations such as deploying aircraft carriers to the -- the Med and to the -- the (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Jeff. So, as you know, training funds and operation and maintenance funds come from different pots of money. As it does relate to the situation in the Middle East, we are -- the military departments are - currently cash-flowing those requirements from existing accounts with funding that was provided by the continuing resolution. And so as we go forward, the military departments and US Central Command will be assessing new requirements that support both current and future operations within this area of responsibility against previously-planned requirements. And so that will be important work going forward.

GEN. RYDER: In the meantime, as you know, we have requested supplemental funding from the Congress, and so we will continue to stay in close contact with the Hill to work through that. And of course, as always, would advocate for a full year appropriation. Thank you.

Let me come back into the room here. Fadi?

Q: Thank you, General. So we were promised that the Pentagon would provide us with more information on the value and scope of U.S. military assistance to Israel since October 7th. Is -- is that information available to you now?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Fadi. Certainly aware of the requests, and I can assure you that is something we're taking seriously and continuing to work through. As soon as we have that information to provide, we'll be sure to do that.

Q: And previously, you told us that there were U.S. assets over Gaza doing ISR to help with hostage recovery. Is that activity continuing or did the U.S. pause that activity as part of the operation pause in Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Fadi. So in light of the operational pause and in compliance with the agreement reached between Israel and Hamas, we are not currently conducting those ISR flights. And so those have been paused for now. Thank you.

Let me go to Nancy and then I'll come back to you, Joe.

Q: I wanted to ask for a clarification on something you announced earlier, and then a follow-up to (inaudible) question.

What specifically did the U.S. send to Egypt? And approximately how much is it worth?

GEN. RYDER: In terms of the humanitarian aid?

Q: ... the U.S. sent?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. So as I understand it -- and again, USAID can provide you much more detail -- it includes medical supplies to support the health system in Gaza, it includes ready-to-use food -- foods for displaced populations, it includes clothing for the -- since winter is upon us. And so that's essentially what's being provided at this point.

Q: And (inaudible) the value of this?

GEN. RYDER: I do not.

Q: And do you have a sense of when it could arrive in Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: It arrived -- well, it arrived in Egypt today, so my assumption here is that it's being loaded onto vehicles now for ground delivery into Gaza. So, you know, very soon. And as I mentioned -- and we'll have more later on this -- but there will be -- we expect additional flights in the coming days. So we'll certainly keep you updated on that.

Q: And I'm sorry, you did know the value?

GEN. RYDER: I do not know the value.

Q: And you had said to Fadi that you're still working on the number for how much equipment's been provided to Israel. Why is it -- can you give us a sense of why it's taken so long to get that approximate estimate? I mean, with other conflicts, most notably Ukraine, that has been a number that's been available in a real time basis. Why is this different?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks. So again, we're working to get those numbers, in terms of what we can provide. As I understand it, part of the complexity is the methods by which we're providing these. Some of that, which is already, for example, paid for through the foreign military sales, foreign military financing, you know, pre-existing agreements with Israel, some of it is coming from stocks that we have in the region, some of it's coming from, U.S. inventory.

So there's a multitude of different methods in order to meet this urgent need. And so it's not the exact same thing as the way we're providing assistance to Ukraine. So this goes into the how do you provide an accurate figure that accurately reflects what we're providing, in terms of our funding, versus what Israel has funded and we're expediting and those kinds of things.

Q: And -- and then lastly, you were asked about comments that were made over the weekend by the U.S. that it expects or hopes that the -- any operations in the south would be at a different tempo than they were in the north. In Secretary Austin's discussions with his Israeli counterparts, has he talked about the U.S. providing different munitions to the Israelis going forward to support a different kind of conduct of -- of the war in the south, in terms of the -- the types of weapons that are used?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I won't get into the specifics, other than to say in their conversations, they're certainly discussing what Israel's needs are, again, within the broader context of what it is they're trying to achieve against Hamas while, at the same time, ensuring that we're taking -- that they're taking civilian casualties and civilian safety into account. I'll just leave it at that. Thank you very much.


Q: Thank you, General. Two questions on North Korea. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un announced yesterday -- said that North Korea's military satellite captured images of the White House and the Pentagon, also the U.S. bases. In fact, what is the United States assessment of the -- you know, this -- North Korea's ...

GEN. RYDER: Whether they got pictures of the Pentagon and the White House?


I -- I don't have any information to provide on what the North Korean satellite has captured imagery of.

Q: But you -- are you still assessing the -- with the -- your allies together (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have anything further to provide. I will say that there are plenty of images of the Pentagon and the White House online, so I'll just leave it at that. Yeah?


I'm sorry, I'll come to you, Joe.

Q: North Korea is completely abolishing the inter-Korean military agreement, this following guard posts and concentrated troops at military demarcation line. How do you view of the possibility of North Korea's supplies ...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so it -- you know, it's obviously something that we're continuing to monitor closely. I don't have any specific information to provide right now on purported North Korean deployments. What I will say again is that U.S. extended deterrent -- our commitment to U.S. extended deterrence to both the Republic of Korea and Japan will remain ironclad.

And as you know, Secretary Austin just returned from his second trip this year to the Korean Peninsula, and he was very clear when he was in Seoul, after seven decades of preserving peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S.-ROK alliance stands strong.

So let me go to Joe ...

Q: Thank you ...

GEN. RYDER: ... and then I'll come to you, Tom.

Q: I want to go back to the -- to Yemen. Have you seen any evidence that Iranian operatives or experts are with the Houthis inside Yemen to provide them with expertise or satellite imagery before they launch or in -- in the process of launching their ballistic missiles towards Israel or towards U.S. ships?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Joe. So I -- I don't, you know, have any specific information to provide on that. I'm not going to get into intelligence. As you well know, the Houthis and Iran have a longstanding relationship, but in -- in terms of your specific question, I don't have anything to pass along.

Q: You can't say if the Iranians, as of now, they -- they are assisting the Houthis with the military support in ...

GEN. RYDER: I don't have anything to pass along on that. Thank you.

All right, time for a couple more. Tom?

Q: Thanks, Pat. Two quick follow-ups. You know, upon the aid flight that landed, I'm inferring a point you said, that it'll be trucked in by -- not by U.S. military ...

GEN. RYDER: United Nations agencies will -- will take it in.

Q: ... and on the -- the ship, you had deduced that -- that they were not the targets. Could that mean -- can you rule out by your preliminary assessment that the pirates who took control of the ship were not directing it toward Yemen to make it a target?

GEN. RYDER: As - as it pertains to the armed individuals that attempted to seize the motor vessel Central Park, you know, again, that's something that we continue to assess. As you've heard us say, right now, initial indications are that these are Somalis, they are aboard the USS Mason, where they're being questioned.

You know, when we have more information to provide, in terms of next steps on that front, in terms of their disposition, we'll certainly let you know, but we're continuing to assess motive, you know, point of origin, all those things. So at - at this point, that's where we're at.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thank you. OK, yeah?

Q: ... a follow-up on the Houthis. Would you characterize the Houthis as a terrorist group?

GEN. RYDER: You know, I'll leave it to State Department to define what is and is not a terrorist group. Certainly, the Houthi rebels, you know, have a long history of fomenting instability in the region, as you well know.

But again, you know, right now, we, the United - United States military, are going to stay focused on the missions that we have at hand. In Iraq and Syria, it's going to be focused on the defeat ISIS mission. In the Red Sea and in the Arabian Gulf and in Gulf of Aden, we're going to continue to stay focused on working with the international community to ensure regional security and stability, whether that's transiting the international waterways or working with our partners to provide air defense.

Q: But is there still consideration of putting them back on the terror list?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'd refer you to State Department for that.

All right, thanks very much, everybody. Appreciate it.