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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Minister Gallant, welcome back to the Pentagon.

You know, I've been to Israel twice since that awful day of October 7th, including just six days after Hamas assaulted your country. And we've spoken by phone nearly 40 times. And it's good to be with you in person again. So welcome.

Now, it's been nearly six months since the Hamas atrocities of October 7th, the worst day in Israel's history. No country should endure such terror, and no country would tolerate such danger.

So President Biden has been clear: Israel has a right to defend itself, like any other state. So we're working with Israel to ensure that an outrage like October 7th can never happen again. And the United States will not rest until all the hostages are home. 

Our goal is to make Israel and the region safer and more secure. And as I have consistently said, protecting Palestinian civilians from harm is both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative.

In Gaza today, the number of civilian casualties is far too high, and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low. 

Gaza is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe, and the situation is getting even worse. And we need immediate increases in assistance to avert famine. Our work to open a temporary humanitarian corridor by sea will help, but the key is still expanding aid deliveries by land.

So Mr. Minister, I look forward to discussing how we can dramatically and urgently ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

The safety of the 1.5 million Palestinian civilians in Rafah is also a top priority for the United States. Now, we continue to share the goal of seeing Hamas defeated, so we'll discuss alternative approaches to target Hamas elements.

And we must also plan for Israel's security after this conflict ends. And that includes working in renewed cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and our regional partners to stabilize Gaza and to move toward a two-state solution.

Yoav, your security bond is -- our security bond is unshakable. The United States is Israel's closest friend, and that won't change. And so I look forward to a good discussion today. And again, thanks for being here, Mr. Minister.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE YOAV GALLANT: My friend Secretary Austin, General Brown, Ambassador Lew, dear friends, it is my honor to be here in the United States. Thank you for hosting us.

Over the past six months we have been fighting a war against a brutal terrorist organization, Hamas, which is the ISIS of Gaza. We also face attacks from seven different fronts, all of them by your, while I sit here in the Pentagon, Hamas leader Haniyeh is meeting with Iranian leadership. The picture is clear as well.

Today, we will discuss developments in Gaza and the means to achieve our goals: the destruction of Hamas organization and bringing back the Israeli hostages back home. The negotiation on the hostages issue and Hamas positions require us to join hands in the — in our military and diplomatic efforts, and to increase pressure on Hamas. I will also raise the growing threats on our northern border, and our commitment to returning displaced communities to their homes.

We will also discuss strategic issues and the important cooperation between our establishment, which will ensure Israel's military edge and capabilities.

Mr. Secretary, once again, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to your personal commitment and to your personal leadership, and for your friendship to Israel and to me personally. Thank you very much.

SEC. AUSTIN: Mr. Minister, it's a delight to have you here, and again, thanks for coming, and we look forward to a great discussion.

Thanks, everybody.