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

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: Great. Good afternoon, everyone. Just a few things at the top, and then I'll get right to your questions.

This morning, U.S. Central Command announced that they conducted their second combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into northern Gaza. Three U.S. C-130s dropped over 36,800 meals into northern Gaza to provide critical relief to civilians there. This is the second combined airdrop to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. As you know, Central Command also conducted an airdrop on Saturday delivering more than 38,000 meals along the coastline of Gaza. These operations included C-130 cargo aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Jordanian Air Force, along with support from U.S. Army soldiers specialized in aerial delivery of supplies who built bundles and ensured the safe drop of food aid. 

These humanitarian airdrops contribute to ongoing U.S. government efforts to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza and are part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes. We continue planning for potential follow-on airborne aid delivery missions, and we'll be sure to keep you updated when we have any new information to provide.

Separately, Secretary Austin hosted Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, for a bilateral meeting today in the Pentagon. During the meeting, Secretary Austin condemned Hamas' attack against Israel on October 7th and called for the release of all hostages held by Hamas. The secretary also expressed strong concerns over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and requested Minister Gantz's support in enabling more humanitarian assistance and distribution into Gaza.

Secretary Austin also emphasized the critical need for a credible and implementable plan for protecting civilians and addressing the humanitarian situation prior to any ground operations in Rafah. A readout from today's meeting will be posted to the DOD website.

In other meetings today and tomorrow, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy is hosting the Defense Policy Board for sessions to examine the potential impacts of attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure aimed at disrupting Department of Defense efforts to mobilize, project, and sustain the Joint Force. Leveraging its breadth of experience, the board will offer the secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of defense independent, informed advice and opinions on the topic following a series of meetings with senior Pentagon leaders, combatant commanders, and interagency counterparts. An unclassified readout of the Defense Policy Board meeting will be posted to 

Switching to updates on allies and partners, Nordic Response 2024, a Norwegian-hosted exercise, begins today in Norway, Finland and Sweden, and will culminate March 15th. The exercise features more than 20,000 NATO forces from 14 nations, including roughly 5,000 from the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force. Designed to strengthen agility and interoperability among allies and partners, Nordic Response will test the collective ability of Arctic nations and others to operate in the rugged conditions of the high north. This year's iteration is part of NATO's Steadfast Defender 2024, as well as your -- U.S. European Command's coordinated Large Scale Global Exercise '24.

Moving over to the Indo-Pacific region, I'd also like to highlight this morning's statements from our colleagues at the State Department after ships from the People's Republic of China engaged in reckless maneuvers against lawfully-operating Philippine vessels near Second Thomas Shoal. Many of you have seen the images and videos today of this dangerous operational behavior by the PRC, which caused multiple collisions and included the use of water cannons. These PRC actions resulted in injuries to Filipino crew members, put lives at risk, and demonstrated disregard for international law. We call on the PRC to abide by the international tribunal's legally-binding decision in 2016. The United States is going to continue to stand by our Philippine ally and our commitment to our mutual defense treaty is ironclad. 

Finally, the department would like to recognize Women's History Month, which is celebrated across our nation every March. We honor the trailblazing women who have paved the way and those who continue to serve and lead at all levels across the Armed Forces. We recognize their invaluable contributions to our military and civilian workforce, and their service and sacrifice are a cornerstone for the department and our nation's history.

And with that, I will take your questions. We'll start with A.P. Tara, you're sitting on the -- off to the side of the room today.

Q: First, I wanted to ask about the sea cables that were cut. Does the U.S. have any better indication of how they were cut, if the Houthis were involved, and if there's any steps that the Navy is going to take to pro- -- further protect these cables? And then I have a couple more.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Tara. I don't have anything to pass along to you now. As you know, this -- this is something obviously that we're looking into. But I just don't have any updates to pass along right now.

Q: OK. What about the idea of a maritime corridor? Has DOD been asked to look at options or see what ships would be available to be able to create -- establish a maritime corridor for aid to Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: So what I can tell you right now is that, in coordination with the U.S. interagency and international partners, we are actively reviewing options for a maritime corridor for humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including potential commercial and contracted options.

I don't have more to announce at this time regarding what that would be but obviously we'll keep you updated on that front.

Q: ... that include using U.S. personnel and military personnel in Gaza to help deliver stuff, or is it just off-shore at this point?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again -- so we would be only in the supporting role, are in a supporting role when it comes to providing U.S. government and humanitarian assistance. And so certainly were we to be involved in that, it would be in the form of unique DOD capabilities.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is the lead coordinator for the government when it comes to humanitarian assistance. And so again, we'll continue to work with the interagency on what that might look like going forward.

Q: Just one last on Ukraine aid. Is the building still looking at options of using the last $4 billion in authorization, given that Ukraine's state of affairs seems to be pretty dire?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I don't, again, have anything specific to announce, in terms of additional aid. We continue to urge Congress to pass the supplemental as soon as possible so that we can support Ukraine in its time of need and of course replenish our own stocks.

As you've heard us say, Ukraine needs the full resources that are available in that package, and there's really no other way to meet fully of -- their requirements on the battlefield. Thank you.

Let me go to the other side of the room. Tom?

Q: Pat, these airdrops, it sounds like they're going to continue. Will there be any coordination with any -- anyone on the ground as you drop these, or just kind of drop them along the coast and any civilians nearby can just up and grab the stuff?

GEN. RYDER: So right now -- and, you know, again, in terms of the coordination of the drops, we are coordinating this with Israeli Defense Forces, and are also communicating through text message to local residents to ensure their safety prior to the drop.

I think what you're asking though is in terms of when they land on the ground, is there anyone there to receive them? And ... 

Q: Correct.

GEN. RYDER: ... and no, that is not the case. But again, we're attempting to do these in a way that they will be able to land safely and that the civilians who need that aid are able to access the aid. Thank you.


Q: Thanks. Going to the Houthi situation, there was another ship that was hit by the Houthis, a Liberian-flagged vessel this time. Does DOD assess that what they are doing in the region is enough? Is there a need in the Pentagon's assessment for additional resources in the region to try to safeguard ships?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again, I don't have anything to announce, Carla, in terms of additional resources going to the region. As you know, this is an international, multinational effort to address this problem. And so that will continue to be our approach, is to work with international partners and allies to disrupt and degrade Houthi capabilities, but most importantly, to work with international shipping companies and countries around the world to help ensure that they can safely transit that waterway.

Q: But are there enough resources -- military resources being put into that region right now to stop the Houthi attacks?

GEN. RYDER: Again, we have a significant amount of capability already in the region but it's not just about the U.S. We will continue to work with allies and partners. And as we continue to need more, we'll certainly work with them, and certainly are willing to take any and all helpers on that front.

Let me go to the phone real quick here. Washington Post, Missy Ryan?

Q: Hi, Pat. Just wanted to follow up on Tara's question, and I have a question -- a separate question.

So regarding the maritime planning, just to press you a little bit more on that, is it accurate to say that -- you -- you mentioned that the United States would be in a supporting role. Is it accurate to say that the United States might be involved but that American military personnel would not -- would not be delivering aid on the ground in Gaza? Is that accurate?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, to clarify, Missy, what I said was the Department of Defense would be in a supporting role when it comes to providing U.S. government humanitarian assistance. I mean, as you know, the United States government has provided more than $180 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza since October 7th. And so the DOD is supporting that broader U.S. government interagency effort to deliver aid.

So again, I don't have anything to announce right now ... 

Q: Yeah.

GEN. RYDER: ... and as I mentioned, we are actively reviewing options, but, you know, what that looks like, we'll just have to keep you updated.

Q: OK.


Q: And then a separate question. I saw the readout from Secretary Austin's meeting with Benny Gantz. Did Minister Gantz provide any assurances about facilitating additional entry of aid? 

And, you know, the readout mentioned strong concerns that Austin had. Was there any guarantees or, you know, new steps, any assurances? Did he walk away with any sort of sense that things were going to change? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Missy. As I'm sure you can appreciate, I won't speak for Minister Gantz. Again, the Secretary appreciated the opportunity to meet with him. But beyond what we've provided in our readout, that's about the extent of what I'm able to pass along. Thank you.


Q: To follow up on that -- in the readout as well, Secretary Austin mentioned the need for a credible, implementable plan for any operations in Rafah. Can you say whether he did present the plan and it just wasn't deemed credible enough?

GEN. RYDER: We have not seen a plan yet from the Israelis when it comes to Rafah operations.

Q: And the second one -- does the department think that it's necessary for congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution for any further strikes or operations in Yemen, seeing as I think it's been about 60 days since the first strikes were carried out?

GEN. RYDER: Again, you know, I know the White House has talked to this extensively, in terms of, you know, the UN resolution, in terms of the inherent right to self-defense. And of course, the President's under his Article 2 authorities to self-defense. And so again, I just refer you to that. Thank you.

Q: Hey ... 

GEN. RYDER: Ma'am?

Q: ... can I just quickly follow up? Has the Pentagon seen any Israeli military plan when it comes to Gaza, going back to October?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to get into the specifics about what we've seen, other than, you know, we've had an ongoing dialogue with the Israeli Defense Force and Ministry of Defense, in terms of what their operations are. As you know, we communicate at multiple echelons, not only here in the Pentagon but also at U.S. Central Command. 

And so, you know, generally speaking, they keep us informed on what they're looking to do, but ultimately, at the end of the day, they're executing the plans that they develop.

Q: But you can't say whether or not you've actually seen a plan or not, going back to October?

GEN. RYDER: I'm -- well, he -- Joseph's question was about Rafah ... 

Q: Well ... 

GEN. RYDER: ... Rafah operations.

Q: In Gaza, operations going back to October. Have they shared any specific military plans?

GEN. RYDER: In the past, they have shared operational details with us. I'll just leave it at that.


Q: Thank you, Pat. A follow-up. You said that you're coordinating with the Israeli Defense Forces and communicating through text message to local residents to ensure their safety on the airdrops. Can you elaborate on that? Who are you coordinating with for the local residents on the ground? Are cell phone companies involved? And what does connectivity look like? How does it all work?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have any more details to provide beyond what I've passed along. Thanks. Natasha?

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. So you mentioned that discussions are underway about the maritime corridor, and there have been renewed calls in Congress to send a hospital ship to the area, including by Senator Angus King. So is that something that are -- is being discussed as well in addition to this maritime corridor?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Natasha. Again, I don't have any specific details to provide other than -- again, we're going to work closely with the interagency to look at what the requirements are, how best to meet those requirements. And as I mentioned, that could include both commercial or contracted options.

But recognizing that the DOD has unique capabilities, that's what we will bring to the discussion. But again, I don't want to get ahead of that planning process. So, OK.


Q: Thanks. So given that there are aid trucks at the border waiting to go in that are being held up, this seems like it's putting the U.S. in a position to have to airdrop aid, which is known to be more dangerous and expensive. Is the Pentagon frustrated that it's being put in this position due to how Israel is conducting its operations?

GEN. RYDER: The Pentagon doesn't get frustrated. We just get busy. So, I mean, clearly, as the president has highlighted, not enough aid is getting into Gaza. And so, the Department of Defense is supporting that broader U.S. government effort to help contribute to that.

Certainly, we want to see more aid being delivered via ground routes. And again, this is part of the discussion that we're having with the Israelis in terms of how can they work to ensure that those routes are open and that aid can get in quicker.

You know, it's obviously a very complex situation on the ground. It's not like trucks can just drive in. There's a screening process. And then, of course, there's safety and security of getting that aid to certain locations. But all that to say again, as you heard the president say aid is not getting in fast enough.

And so, these airdrops that we started over the weekend are part -- are intended to help supplement those efforts, but we won't stop there again. USAID and others will continue to look at ways that we can expedite aid getting in getting into Gaza, also in coordination with other countries from around the world.

Thank you. We go back to the phone here. Let's go to Phil Stewart, Reuters.

Q: Hey there, could you give us a sense? We'd asked yesterday about when the meeting with Minister Gantz was scheduled and what at that time yesterday. We didn't think he had a meeting with Minister Gantz. When did that wind up being scheduled?

And then just to press on Missy's question, you know, does the Pentagon assess that it would be secure enough for U.S. troops to be positioned in Gaza to secure a maritime corridor port, or to otherwise distribute aid? Or has that been ruled out at this point? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Phil. At this point in time, there are no plans to send any U.S. forces into Gaza to my knowledge. So, you know, just leave it there. In terms of the meeting scheduled for today, that was, you know, last night. We were able to identify an opening and so, that meeting was essentially penciled in late last night and then, of course, confirmed this morning.

And so, again, the Secretary appreciated the opportunity to talk to Minister Gantz. And just leave it there. Thank you.

Let me go to Lara Seligman, Politico.

Q: Hi, Pat. Thanks for doing this. Following up on some of the earlier questions about the maritime route, has the Pentagon ruled out putting U.S. boots on the ground in Gaza, even in support of this humanitarian mission?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Lara. Again, at this time, there are no plans to put U.S. forces on the ground in Gaza to my knowledge. Thank you.


Q: Thank you, General. So as you said that USAID is taking the lead in delivering aid to Gaza and I assume they have trucks in Egypt, right?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, I'd have to refer you to them.

Q: So, and you mentioned, like, security reason for the -- one of the reasons for the delay in delivering aid through ground route. If you have U.S. provided assistance and U.N. provided assistance, how -- what is the security concern here when it comes to Israel versus dropping aid on Gaza? Did the Israelis screen the aid you dropped on Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'd refer you to USAID in Israel to talk about the specifics there. And again, State Department, as you know, has been intimately involved in this process. I'm only going to talk to the DOD aspects. But again, as I understand it, the situation on the ground in terms of getting aid into Gaza, whether it's from, you know, Egypt or whether it's coming in from Israel, you know, we obviously need to ensure that that continues.

You know, we helped -- or USAID helped. We airlifted aid into Egypt earlier in the year, which, of course, was then taken over a land route via Egypt into Gaza, for example. But then, as I mentioned, part of the discussion is working with Israel to open up additional routes that are on Israel's side looking at all possibilities to get aid in there. But when it comes to the on the ground dynamics, DOD forces are not on the ground there, so I really can't speak to that.

Q: But in the air dynamic, so you had two operations to drop aid on Gaza? Did Israel screen the aid?

GEN. RYDER: No, they did not. They did not.

Q: So, they allowed that aid without any screening?

GEN. RYDER: Correct. Correct. Ryo?

Q: Oh, thank you, General. Please let me ask you about in the past week that China said today its military spending will increase by 7.2 percent this year. So there is an accusation of the Chinese military spending in terms of transparency and openness. So does the Pentagon assess China's actual defense spending could be much larger than the amount they publicly announced?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks Ryo. So, you know, I'm not going to get any -- from the podium here, any specific intelligence that we might have from a DOD standpoint. What I will say is that we will continue to monitor their evolving military strategy, their doctrine, their force development.

And as you highlight, we do continue to call on them to be more transparent about their defense spending and their actions that they're taking, not only in the Indo-Pacific region, but around the world.

Q: Yeah. Separately, following up about the situation in the South China Sea, the China has gone to -- Chinese dangerous behavior has continued in spite of the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippine ally. So what steps will the Pentagon take in practical terms to change the trajectory of the Chinese behavior in the South China Sea?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I think you see us taking those steps now, which is, leading by example and working closely with partners and allies in the region to ensure that countries can sail, fly, or operate wherever international law allows, but most importantly, it's working together in a positive and productive manner to ensure security and stability in the region and not exacerbate tensions in the region.

And so again, we'll continue to maintain that focus -- regional security and stability and prosperity versus harassment, antagonism, and destabilizing types of activities. Thank you.

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you very much, General. Recently, there's been a flurry of engagements with -- with Ankara and Washington. The Deputy Undersecretary of the Defense Department met with the Turkish National Security Advisor in Ankara a couple of weeks ago. The Turkish spy ship is in Washington right now. Foreign Minister's going to be here in a couple days. And the Turkish President just said yesterday that this summer, we will permanently resolve the issue regarding our Iraqi borders, and our desire to create the security corridor in Syria remains the same. 

So given this level of contact recently, would this be too puzzling for the Pentagon if the Turkish government actually took this step to launch cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks. I don't have any comment on that, other than to say again we've talked in the past about the challenges that any type of cross-border attacks would cause, particularly as it relates to the defeat ISIS mission. 

Of course, we highly value Turkey as an ally, but when it comes to those particular conversations, I just -- I just don't have any insight to provide.

Q: So your position hasn't changed on that ... 


GEN. RYDER: Correct.


Q: Thanks, General. A couple of questions for you. First of all, how does the Pentagon address the apparent paradox of providing bombs to Israel on the one hand and ready to eat meals to the Palestinians on the other?

GEN. RYDER: So Tom, as we've talked about, you know, we recognize a couple things here. One, Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7th, over 1,200 people killed, over 200 hostages taken, half of whom are still being held by Hamas. Hamas has not laid down its arms. It continues to present a significant and potentially existential threat to Israel. 

And Israel has an inherent right to defend itself. And as a strong partner, a longstanding partner of the United States, our support for Israel's right to defend itself is ironclad and we will continue to support them and ensure they have what they need to defend their people and protect their citizens from future terrorist attacks by Hamas.

At the same time, as we've been saying for a very long time -- and I mentioned earlier over $180 million in humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza from the U.S. government -- we recognize the importance of ensuring that the people in Gaza are -- can remain safe. 

And again, we have been consistently speaking with our Israeli partners on the importance of ensuring civilian safety. Secretary Austin has talked about this at -- multiple times, to include in his speech at Reagan. And that will continue to be our position.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, what we want to see is a situation where Israelis and Palestinians can live next to each other, side-by-side, and the threat of Hamas no longer exists and creates the chaos that they have brought to both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. Thank you.

Q: ... and then a second question -- I know you don't want to get ahead of any announcements vis-a-vis the -- the aid corridor through the maritime route. You did mention some unique DOD capabilities. Can you talk about what these could be in a general sense? And, you know, like, amphibious landing craft, for instance? 

And also, could you talk about, like, what the situation is now with -- with regards to, like, the Israeli naval blockade? Like, how would -- how would the corridor get around that, or would it be through the -- the ... 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Tom. No, I'm just not, because as much as I'd like to get into hypotheticals and speculate, that will be reported as DOD is going to do X, and at this point, I just don't have any specifics to announce. So we'll be sure to keep you updated.

And in -- in terms of Israeli operations, I'd have to refer you to them.

Let me go back to the phone here. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose?

Q: Thank you. An Air Force employee at Strategic Command has been indicted for allegedly sharing sensitive information. This comes after the recent revelation that a sailor has been arrested for sharing information with a foreign government. And then last year, you had two other sailors arrested for espionage. Is the Defense Department dealing with an espionage problem within the ranks? Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Jeff. Look, the bottom line is, you know, we've seen in the past where individuals have committed inappropriate actions and, you know, been identified and held accountable. 

Generally speaking, to answer your question, no, but we also recognize the fact that -- that insider threats are something that needs to be taken seriously, which is why every single member of the Department of Defense, whether you're a basic trainee or a two-star general or above, is going to take training on the proper handling and safeguarding of sensitive information. And if you violate those rules, you will be held accountable.

And so we'll just leave it there.

OK, let me go to Pat Tucker, Defense One.

Q: Hey, General. Thanks for doing this. So there's a readout just now about the Secretary's meeting with the Lithuanian Defense Minister. I wonder if you can go a little bit beyond the readout and tell us what the Secretary talked about with the Defense Minister of Lithuania?

And also, second part, is the United States right now in touch with the government of Moldova about possible defensive steps or actions that Moldova may need to take to get ahead of possible civil unrest or -- or even Russian aggressive activity, as has been foretold through some Russian actions in the last couple of weeks?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Pat. Listen, I really don't have anything to provide beyond what was in the readout -- a very productive meeting. You know, the Secretary appreciated the chance to talk with the Minister about the strong bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Lithuania. And as the readout highlighted, expressed the support that Lithuania is providing for Ukraine and also the NATO alliance.

When it comes to Moldova, I don't have anything specific here to provide, Pat. You know, I'd recommend that you contact State Department, and they could probably talk a little bit more about the bilateral relationship there on the ground. But yeah, I don't have anything beyond that. Thank you.

Let me go to Jared from Al-Monitor.

Q: ... are you seeing ... 

Q: Thanks, sir. My question has been asked.

GEN. RYDER: And Heather from USNI?

Q: Hey, thanks so much. So I know that there was questions about the hospital ship. And so I guess why hasn't the U.S. sent a hospital ship over to Gaza as it's trying to increase the humanitarian aid that's being prevented when we have two hospital ships that are available?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Heather. So again, you know, as we've talked about before, our primary focus in the Middle East region has been on protecting U.S. forces and citizens in the region, it's been on supporting Israel in their inherent right to self-defense, it's been on working to support the release of hostages, and it's been on ensuring that this conflict doesn't expand into a wider conflict.

But again, as we see the situation developing in Gaza and as we see that enough aid is not getting in, the DOD can contribute in that regard and has been asked to help deliver aid via airdrops, which of course we've done.

So again, don't want to get ahead of the process. As I mentioned, we're actively reviewing options, and if that entails assets, you know, like the things that you highlight, then, you know, certainly we'll have more to talk about then. But again, I just don't want to get ahead of that process right now. OK?

Time for a few more. Yes, ma'am? We'll go to Tara.

Q: Yes, the airdrops, they are expensive and complicated. So how long do you believe that they're actually sustainable?

GEN. RYDER: Well, the tempo for potential future airdrops missions will depend on a variety of factors -- you know, risk assessments -- but the bottom line is, you know, we will continue to look at ways that we can get aid in via air. 

I'm not going to publicly preview, you know, the tempo and the timing of those future drops, in part to ensure a safe drop zone, obviously, for civilians in Gaza. But look, again, as the President said, not enough aid is getting in, and so we're going to do our part to assist in that process and assist the broader U.S. government effort to get aid in. Thank you.


Q: I wanted to ask about Haiti. Given the deteriorating security situation there, is the Pentagon considering sending U.S. troops or ships to be a deterrent from this turning into a -- a bigger problem?

GEN. RYDER: So I don't have anything to announce right now. You know, to my knowledge, we're not contemplating sending U.S. troops to Haiti to conduct security missions, for example, you know, to support Haitian Armed Forces or police.

We are definitely monitoring the situation closely, we're maintaining, you know, close contact with State Department on the situation on the ground there, but at this stage, this is where we're at, Tara.

Q: Some critics have said that a multinational force just won't be enough and it will require U.S. troops to get the situation under control. 

GEN. RYDER: And that's an interesting statement. 

OK. Luis?

Q: Two questions. First, on the statement -- the readout from the meeting this morning with Minister Gantz, it says that the Secretary expressed strong concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. You -- you laid out a -- a scenario that is about why the administration is concerned. What are some of the concerns that the Secretary has? And how did he express them strongly?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, Luis, so a couple things and I highlighted earlier to Tom, you know, when the Secretary spoke at the Reagan National Defense Forum -- and again, I'd point folks to that speech.

You know, there's really two aspects here. One, it's the right thing to do, right? There's people that are suffering and they need help, and the Department of Defense has a capability -- in this case, the ability to airdrop food. And so, you know, we're taking that approach in support of the broader effort.

But importantly, also, we recognize the threat that Israel faces from Hamas, but it's important not to allow tactical victory against Hamas to be replaced with strategic defeat due to creating a situation where essentially Hamas is emboldened and the people of Gaza, the Palestinians who live in Gaza, can't live in peace.

And so it's incredibly important that this situation be addressed and that we can not only ensure that innocent Palestinians living in Gaza can get the humanitarian assistance that they need but that we can restore security and stability to this region as quickly as possible and that we can begin the process by which Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side, in the situation where, again, Hamas is not a threat and not a destabilizing factor in this region.

Q: Have there been discussions about potentially cutting off the U.S. military assistance to Israel in this situation? And what would be actually the benefits of that? Would -- could -- one could call that, you know, the -- the carrot and stick approach, that this -- that would be a stick approach to express concerns to the Israelis.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I appreciate the question. I'm not going to get into a hypothetical discussion here from the podium. The fact is we are providing assistance to Israel, again, for all the reasons I highlighted earlier, which is to enable them to defend themselves.

We've -- recognize some of the actors that -- that live and operate in the region, that have said as a stated policy they want to see the elimination of Israel as a state, and we recognize that and we recognize again Israel's inherent right to self-defense. 

So we're going to continue to support them in that regard, but again, we're also going to expect them to conduct their operations in accordance with international humanitarian law and the international law of armed conflict.

All right, I've got time for a couple more. Sir?

Q: Thank you, General. Last week, the Senate defeated an attempt to hold the sale of F-16 jet -- jets to Turkey. So as the Turkish Foreign Ministry's expected to visit Washington this week, will the Pentagon leaders discuss this with them, or what -- do you have any update on the F-16 jets to Turkey?

GEN. RYDER: I really don't. Again, you know, you've heard us say that we support Turkey getting the F-16s, but there's a process that involves Congress obviously. And so when we have updates on that front, we'll be sure to provide them.

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