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Sabrina Singh, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hey, good morning, everyone. Try that again. Good afternoon, everyone. Just a few things at the top, and then happy to jump in and take your question.

So earlier today, Secretary Austin spoke with Ukraine's Minister of Defense Umarov regarding Ukraine's most pressing security assistance needs. The Secretary and the Minister discussed the ongoing U.S. security assistance efforts following the passage of the National Security Supplemental, including the recent $1 billion presidential drawdown package and $6 billion in Ukraine security assistance initiative announcements. Minister Umerov provided an update of dynamics on the battlefield, as well as the impact of Russia's continued aerial attacks across Ukraine. 

Additionally, Secretary Austin also met today with His Majesty King Abdullah II today to discuss regional areas of mutual concern and opportunities for cooperation. A readout of their meeting will be available on later today. 

Now, I'd like to provide an update on our efforts with USAID to surge humanitarian assistance into Gaza through the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability, or also known as JLOTS. As of today, the U.S. military has completed the offshore construction of the Trident Pier section, or the causeway, which is the component that will eventually be anchored to the Gaza Shore. And as I mentioned last week, construction of the floating pier section has also been completed. So as of today, the construction of the two portions of the JLOTS, the floating pier and the Trident pier, are complete and awaiting final movement offshore. 

As you know, late last week, CENTCOM temporarily paused moving the floating pier and Trident Pier toward the vicinity of Gaza due to sea state considerations. Today, there are still forecasted high winds and high sea swells which are causing unsafe conditions for the JLOTS components to be moved, so the pier sections and military vessels involved in its construction are still positioned at the Port of Ashdod. However, as CENTCOM stands by to move the pier into position in the near future, and again, in partnership with USAID, we're loading humanitarian aid onto the MV Sagamore, which is currently in Cyprus. The Sagamore is a cargo vessel that will use the JLOTS system and will make trips between Cyprus and the offshore floating pier as USAID and other partners collect aid from around the world. And as we've previously briefed, aid delivered to the floating pier will then be transloaded onto U.S. military logistics support vessels and subsequently transported to the Trident Pier, or the causeway, where it will be loaded onto trucks for onward delivery and distribution by humanitarian assistance NGOs. 

Switching gears, I'd like to highlight the start of a new Exercise Astral Night, a U.S. European Command integrated air and missile defense capstone exercise, which is part of the Defense Department's large-scale Global Exercise 2024 Program. This two-week exercise, now in its sixth year, will feature live, flying and simulated combat scenarios focused in Poland and the Baltic states. Nearly 5,000 military members and more than 50 aircraft from six NATO nations, which include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, will participate side-by-side, strengthening our ability to operate as one cohesive force.

Astral Knight underscores the importance of integrated air and missile defense in protecting allied military forces and critical assets from aerial threats, such as missiles or drones, and demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the security and readiness of our allies in Europe.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. I'll start off with Lita.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Two things. 

One, can you give us an update on the soldier who's being held in Russia? Do you have a sense - apparently there's, like, a July 2nd trial or some sort of date. Do you have some sort of sense of what's happening there? If you could just fill in the blanks?

And do you know is it a violation of a regulation of some sort? Does he face disciplinary action because he did not seek or receive authorization for the international travel if that's clear? 

And then I have a quick follow-up.

MS. SINGH: OK. I'll start with this and then happy to take your additional questions.

So for more information, I would refer you to the Army, but what I can tell you from here is that Staff Sergeant Gordon C. Black enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman was was enlisted as an infantryman in 2008. He was most recently assigned to Eighth Army, U.S. Forces Korea, at Camp Humphreys in the Republic of South Korea.

On April 10th, Black out-processed from Eighth Army and signed out on permanent change of station to leave en route to Texas. However, instead of returning to the U.S., Black flew from Korea through China and then to Vladivostok, Russia for personal reasons.

As of right now, Black is currently in a pre-trial detention facility. It's my understanding he will remain there until his next hearing. And I'm not sure on that date. I'd refer you to State Department on that.

The Army has opened an administrative investigation to determine the facts and the circumstances surrounding his travel, but to your question on, you know, will there be consequences for his actions, that's something that the Army's going to look into through their investigation. 

But official or any leave to Russia is strictly prohibited, and that's pursuant to the DOD foreign clearance guide, which of course is also informed by the State Department guidelines, which right now I believe it's Category 4, which is do not travel to Russia. 

So that's the sort of overview of where things stand right now.

Q: And then just very quickly on the - on the pier ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... will the Sagamore wait in Cyprus until the pier is actually attached to this shoreline? And at - at a certain point, do you have sort of an - even an ETA on when the sea states might be calm enough to do it? Is the aid process ready so that once the sea state calms down, that can start?

MS. SINGH: So I believe they will the Sagamore transiting to - to, you know, the floating pier will happen in conjunction when it's - when everything is sort of ready to fit into place. I don't think one would happen without the other. 

So aid is continuing to get loaded on. Once the commander feels that, you know, the Sagamore is ready to leave and that the sea states have calmed, we will position the JLOTS into place. I don't have an exact date for you cause it is of course weather and environment depending, but we're hoping for later this week, but that does depend of course on the environmental conditions and if - and security conditions as well, but right now, we're focused on the environmental conditions surrounding the anchoring of that pier.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. I have one follow-up and then a different question.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: On the Sagamore, how much aid can that ship hold, in terms of truckloads? And is this the only ship that's taking advantage of the pier? I guess I'm wondering that - kind of - the throughput of aid and how that's going to work, how many trucks a day.

MS. SINGH: You know, I don't have an exact estimate on how much - how many, like, pallets it can load. I'm happy to get back to you on that one. I think it will vary just on how much, you know, different things that are packed onto it.

And then I'm sorry, in terms if - it - will this be the only one going back and forth from the floating pier?

Q: What I am trying to get at is a senior defense official told us I think last week that it's - that it's going to - the JLOTS is going to be able to - to provide 150 trucks a day at full operational capability, but that just seems low to me considering that it's a maritime route. It seems like a ship would hold more than that. So I'm wondering ... 

MS. SINGH: Well, I mean, you have to remember this is a temporary pier, this is not the best way to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. The best way are through those land routes, and we do want to see those opened up, we do want to see aid continue to flow in through those land crossings.

This is just one. It's meant to help augment, to help compliment other ways that aid can get in, not just through land routes but of course we're also doing those airdrops that you continue to see us do on a regular basis.

I mean, 150 trucks is at its - you know, when it's fully operational. I think you're - what you're going to see at the very beginning is a crawl, walk, run scenario, is we're going to start with, you know, an additional small amount of aid trucks to flow in to make sure that the system works, that the distribution works, and then you'll see that increase of course when we get to full operational capacity.

But that's something that the commander is continuing to work through. For more aid - like, for more aid questions on the Sagamore and what it's help - holding, I would refer you to USAID.

Q: And then just on a separate topic, is the U.S. considering the use of private military companies to help distribute aid in Gaza?

MS. SINGH: I'm not aware of that but that's something that - USAID would be able to speak more to the distribution of aid once it gets into Gaza. So I'd refer you to them. 

I also realize that you asked about the Sagamore being the only ship going back and forth. Just as a reminder, commercial ships can also go up to that floating pier. It's the military ships, the LCUs and LSVs that take the aid from the floating pier to the causeway. That is only military. But commercial ships can go up once they're - other ships can once they are - once aid is loaded in Cyprus, inspected, it goes to the floating pier.


Q: The U.S. has asked for a humanitarian plan for any Rafah operation. Have you guys received anything from the Israelis about how they're going to handle humanitarian effort, especially if Rafah gate closes?

MS. SINGH: Well, we've had conversations with the Israelis. There was a - a - a delegation here a few weeks ago that, you know, gave a general, broad overview of their plans. We are not supportive of a large ground incursion into Rafah. We are very concerned that - that, you know, there are over one million people sheltering there. We want to make sure that civilian casualties are limited, that there is no harm done. So we have made those concerns voiced both - both publicly and privately.

Q: Can you give us a sense of what they said to you about their humanitarian plan?

MS. SINGH: I'm, as you can appreciate, just not going to get into closed door discussions, but as you know and as we regularly read out, the Secretary has regular calls with Minister Gallant, and other folks from this building with their counterparts as well, so we're certainly in touch with the Israelis. 

But we certainly do not support and have expressed our views on a major ground operation within Rafah.

Q: So are you satisfied with what you're hearing about their humanitarian plan?

MS. SINGH: I mean, again, I'm not going to get into private conversations. We want to see a - we want to see a concrete plan that will take into account the over one million people that are there right now. We don't support a large ground operation into Rafah.

Q: Ms. Singh, I think Pat mentioned the security situation as one of the factors that could impact the timing (multiple speakers) Gaza. Has — have the Israel strikes and sort of limited operation in Rafah changed your view of the security situation? Are you now more concerned about it, given what happened yesterday in Rafah?

MS. SINGH: We're certainly taking into account the security consideration but still nothing has changed. We're still moving forward with the implementation of JLOTS. We do need these sea state conditions to steady. And until they do we're just not able to move that into that — into the — into it's location at this time. But of course the security situation is something that we're going to monitor and if that does impact anything when it comes to the JLOTS mission we would — we would let you know.

Q: I realize your policy you don't send any weapons to Israel has not changed, saying some shipments have been paused. What are the — what message are you trying to send to Israel with those pause in shipments?

MS. SINGH: So I don't have a — I've seen those reports. I don't have a comment and I certainly wouldn't comment on specific cases or shipments. What I can reiterate is that our commitment to Israel security remains iron clad. You've seen that since October 7th. You've seen a surge security assistance to Israel. You've seen us come to the defense of Israel as recently as a few weeks ago when Iran launched attacks towards Israel.

We also were able to pass an emergency supplemental that surged additional security assistance to Israel. So while I'm not going to comment any further I can tell you that our commitments to Israel security remains the same.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina.

Were you given any heads up from your Israeli counterparts about this latest operation into Rafah? What is your understanding? You said we will not support the major operation. Is this part for major operation or limited? What is the information available to you?

MS. SINGH: Our understanding is that this was a very limited operation designed to cut off Hamas' ability to smuggle more weapons and funding into Gaza. That is our understanding right now. 

This just happened, I think, very early morning hours here. So we're monitoring the situation, we're in touch with our Israeli counterparts. We're going to see how this unfolds but I just don't have more for you to offer on like what this operation is other than that.

Q: Can you — according to UNRWA, this operation and — and prior Israeli steps basically cut off all humanitarian aid into Gaza. All crossings are shutdown.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: OK, according to the UNRWA, this operation and prior Israeli steps basically cut off all humanitarian aid into Gaza. All crossings are shut down. Sadly, this one area, Rafah, obviously. You've been insisting, and the Secretary, in every read out that there should be an urgent increase in humanitarian aid. Is this operation and the closing of the Rafah crossing, meet your objectives in terms of your humanitarian situation in Gaza? 

MS. SINGH: Well, we don't support the closing of these land routes. We want to see humanitarian aid to continue to get in. And so I think that was something that the president spoke to in his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that we do want to see these crossings open. Kerem Shalom has been closed for, I think, a bit now.

So we do want to see more aid be able to get through these crossing. That is a commitment that the Israeli government has made that they will. Again, we are — we are continuing to monitor the situation on the ground. 

To Lara's question earlier, we know land routes are the best, most effective, efficient way to get humanitarian aid in and we know that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. And so people need the medical supplies, the food, the water. That is something that we want to see continue to get in and we have been told that these crossings will open back up. In the meantime, you know, we've also continued to conduct humanitarian airdrops within Gaza. And should we get to the time and point where we're able to position this temporary pier off the coast of Gaza that will also help with humanitarian aid getting in. Warren.

Q: A question on Rafah to follow up on Fadi's question. And then a question on the soldier in Russia. 


Q: In the discussions about what you call the general broad overview of Israel's Rafah plans, was there discussion about this limited operation or was there no discussion about this previously with you between America and Israel?

MS. SINGH: So we don't have more to share in terms of the conversation between Minister Gallant and Secretary Austin. But as you can appreciate, they talk pretty regularly. Their conversations are already — are very direct, very frank with each other. But I'm just not going to go into more details on that. 

Q: Is this how soon Rafah could function again as one of the most important crossings? 

MS. SINGH: That would be something for the Israeli government to speak to. I can't speak to that. 

Q: And then a follow up question on Staff Sergeant Gordon Black. Is there any suspicion or concern that in his relationship with his Russian girlfriend or while in Russia he compromised sensitive information? And is that part of the ongoing investigation? 

MS. SINGH: I'd refer you to Army for more information on that. As I mentioned, there is an administrative investigation underway to determine the facts, to determine what exactly happened here, the — surrounding his travel. But I just don't have more thing on that. 

Yes, Joe.

Q: Thanks. The Biden administration is required to notify Congress by tomorrow if Israel violated the national law without humanitarian aid since October. Is it the department — what's the department's assessment in terms of either one of those? Have they violated or had they without humanitarian aid?

MS. SINGH: So I believe you're referring to the NSM? And that's something that I would have to refer you to State to speak to. 

Q: And has the Pentagon assessed that Israel has violated the international law or withheld humanitarian?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to add on to this one. This is something that the State Department is putting together. It's a report to Congress that is, you know, due every — however many increments. But I just don't have more at this time to offer on the NSM in particular. 

Q: That being said, human rights watch came out with a report and said, there was a March 27th attack on emergency and relief workers. And several of them in Southern Lebanon by Israel. And they say that a U.S. made JDAM was used, as well as a 500-pound Israeli bomb. It killed, like I said, at least several individuals who were civilians. And there's been no evidence of a military target at the site. Are you guys aware of this, how close — I mean, we've seen — you've said before that there are no conditions on U.S. military weapons provided — or weapons provided to Israel. Are you guys tracking these kinds of things at all? And are you aware of this attack? 

MS. SINGH: So I'm not going to get into specific incidents. And I can't confirm those reports that you're citing U.S. weapons being used. What I can tell you is that we have been very clear that we want to see Israel comply with humanitarian laws and the laws of armed conflict. This is something that it's an interagency process that between the State Department, other agencies, we are reviewing. Our findings will also go into the NSM. For more on that. I'm just not going to get ahead of that process as you can appreciate. I'd refer you to the State Department. 

Q: Just one last one.

MS. SINGH: Sure. 

Q: The IKE has returned to the Red Sea. We saw a statement a couple — I guess a couple weeks ago now that it had gone into the Sixth Fleet, into Europe. Can you say anything about — and then, you know, on April 23rd, CENTCOM released the — or put out a tweet and said there were F-16s deployed to AOR but didn't specify where. Can you say anything about — can you give us any updates on this, I guess, mission to counter and deter the Houthis. Is the IKE — has it been deployed — has the deployment extended? 

MS. SINGH: So I don't have anything for you on any changes to our force posture with the Ike or anything additional. You have the positioning of our assets there for the exact reason to help with deterrence and our efforts when it comes to Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is to ensure that commercial shipping through the Red Sea, the BAM, the Gulf of Aden, can continue freely without the harassment of Houthi attacks.

You've seen CENTCOM put out, you know, regular updates on when there are engagements. But I don't have anything more to read out at this time on the IKE. 


Q: Last week, Secretary Austin told lawmakers, he was concerned over a "lack of execution" in terms of Israel's plans to evacuate civilians from Gaza. Is that still the case? Is he still concerned about the lack of execution? 

MS. SINGH: I think we are concerned about any type of ground operation, large ground operation within Rafah that does not take into account that very large civilian population. So yes, the Secretary's words still absolutely stand until today .

Q: Follow up from Joseph's question. So was the USS IKE brought back into the Red Sea to counter the Houthis because there were increased attacks in the eastern event? 

MS. SINGH: Again, I don't have the list of attacks that happened when she was not in the Red Sea. But, you know, we have other partner nations that are part of Operation Prosperity Guardian and others that are not, that were engaging when the Houthis did fire attacks unlawfully at commercial vessels. I think I read out, you know, when she — I said that she would be back soon. She has returned. But I just don't have more for you on anything additional or any extension. I'm just going to go to the phones before I forget and then come back into the room here. Jared Szuba, Al-Monitor. 

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thanks for doing this. I understand that the Israeli officials told White House counterparts that last night's Rafah — Operation Rahaf was limited. But what preparations are you seeing the Israeli military make? Does it look like they're setting up for broader ground clearing, major ground operations, or does it look like they're preparing for something more precise, and targeted, and surgical? Thanks. 

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Jared, for the question. So in terms of what they're doing, their actual planning when it comes to any operation, I would refer you to the IDF to speak to that. What I can tell you. And I'm not trying to sound like a broken record here, what I can tell you is publicly and privately, we've been very clear that we do not support a large ground incursion into Rafah, given the incredibly large civilian population that is currently sheltered there. And so, you know, I just have to reiterate that point again. 

All right. Next question. J.J. Green WTOP.

Q: Hey. Sabrina, thank you. Two quick questions about the Staff Sergeant Black. First one, can you address the significance of an active duty service member? Being in Russian custody, given Russia's efforts to, I guess, essentially seek out and find and capture Americans and to use them for political purposes or geopolitical purposes. Can you address the significance first of an active duty U.S. service member being in Russian custody? 

Thanks, J.J. So before I start going down this line, I would just remind you that the Army is looking into this. They have an administrative investigation underway to determine the facts and circumstances around this travel.

You have to remember that, yes, this is an active duty service member, but he was on leave at the time. And so, you know, all we know is that he went to Russia for personal reasons. I don't have more to share as that — is that the Army is continuing to look into this incident. And for further questions on his condition or next steps, I'd refer you to the State Department for more on that.

And I'm sorry, did you have a follow-up?

Q: You know, actually, I'll skip that, but thank you for answering that question.

MS. SINGH: Of course. All right, I'll come back in the room. Yes, right over here?

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. The ceasefire - sorry - the ceasefire proposal that Hamas has said - said they will accept, is this same offer that's been on the table for a long time? And have you reviewed it with your partners?

MS. SINGH: So I would refer you to the State Department. And as you are probably aware, Bill Burns is in the region and sort of leading these negotiations. So I - I don't want to speak from here about the ceasefire or hostage negotiations that are taking place, other than that they are underway and, you know, we have a representative at the table as well working to see - to ensure that some - that a ceasefire could be put into place. 

If a sea side - if - if a ceasefire were to be put into place, that obviously would increase chances of more humanitarian aid to get in to Gaza and of course release more hostages, which is obviously something we want to see.

Q: On Russia - Vladimir Putin order his forces to rehearse for a non-strategic nuclear weapon. How do you look at it? And have you seen any change in Russia's posture on nuclear terms.

MS. SINGH: How do we look at what Russia announced? We look at that as completely irresponsible. We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture. We haven't seen any indications that Russia plans to use a nuclear weapon. But it's deeply irresponsible and we're going to continue to monitor what's happening in the region.


Q: Sabrina, you've been saying for months now, this administration, that you're against a major military operation of Rafah. 

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: ... and they told around 100,000 people to evacuate in eastern Rafah, and that sounds like a lot of people. So what's the definition of a major military operation? What makes a limited military operation? What's a major military operation? Is there an acceptable number of civilians that can be put at greater risk for the Pentagon? Like, how - how do we know what's major?

MS. SINGH: Sure. Look, I'm, as you can appreciate, not going to get into more specifics on, like, their operations and some of the things that they brief us on. A major military operation would put at risk civilian lives. Anything that puts at risk civilian lives within Rafah is something that we do - are not supportive of. 

We do not want to see a population with over one million people who were, you know, directed there when other operations were going on in the north and the west, were forced into Rafah - we don't want to see the civilian population put at risk, knowing that also there is tremendous hurdles of also getting humanitarian aid in, medical supplies in.

And so any type of a military operation must take into account that large concentration of civilians, and right now, we haven't seen a - we - we need to see a credible plan that would protect those civilians. And so we're continuing to urge and - and speak to our Israeli counterparts about that plan, and I'll just leave it at that.

Q: You know, over 100,000 people were told to leave the area. That sounds like an alarming development because they can be put at greater risk. So this line that's drawn in the sand, how do you make sure that Israel doesn't cross that?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, again, I'm not putting a specific number on it, on, like, how many people or - need to leave or how many, you know - what a large-scale operation looks like cause I'm not going to detail their own plans and what they share with us. That's something for them to speak to.

What I can tell you is we have a large population of civilians that are sheltered in Rafah. They need to be protected if there is any type of operation or any type of major ground incursion into Rafah. And we want to see those civilians protected. And to move over one million people, that's going to take a lot of time.

So we're - we're continuing to work with our Israeli counterparts, and I'll just leave it at that. 

Yeah, in the back? Carla?

Q: Thanks. I - VOA was told by a U.S. military official that - in Niger that some of the diplomatic clearances for flights have been denied. That's forced extended deployments. The day-to-day life sustainment is continuing very - via commercial contact - contract transportation. These raise a lot of questions.

And what's going on with the U.S. forces in Niger right now? Are they allowed to leave? Are they getting the medical supplies and equipment and ammunition, et cetera, everything that they need? And why is - what reason is Niger giving the Pentagon for why they're denying some of the diplomatic clearances?

MS. SINGH: I'd direct you to the CNSP to speak to why they're denying some of the diplomatic clearances. We are working with the CNSP on what our orderly withdrawal looks like. As of right now, our forces in Niger still continue to have access to necessary food, water, medical supplies that they need, but this is of course something that we are working towards on what that orderly withdrawal looks like. There have been some cases where some of our service members have - have left Niger for unforeseen circumstances. 

Right now, as a - I think we briefed a few weeks ago, we will have another delegation led by someone from the Department of Defense that will go to Niamey to continue these conversations about the orderly withdrawal. That visit hasn't happened yet. So until that does and until parameters are put around for these negotiations on what the orderly withdrawal looks like, we're still in a bit of this holding pattern until we can have those conversations. Great.

Q: Real quickly if I may on Russia? There have been requests for the Pentagon to kind of detail how Russia is able to use Starlink cause Starlink is also contracted with DOD. Do you have any details to provide on how Russia is able to use that on the battlefield, and what the Pentagon and others are doing to try to prevent that from happening?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything specific on Russia using Starlink. As you know, our - our contract with Starlink is for the Ukrainians to use, but I don't have anything more specific on Russia using Starlink.


Q: Yeah, thanks so much. My question is about the South China Sea. Recently, we have seen the Chinese dangerous options towards Philippines vessels, but recently, Chinese government argued that there was a temporary special agreement with the former Philippine President Duterte in 2016 and - about the restricted access by Philippine vessels, and China accused the Philippines side of the recent tensions. So can I ask for your comment on this Chinese claim?

MS. SINGH: Are you talking about, like, the firing of water cannons, things like that towards Philippine vessels?

Q: Yes, and China claims that there was a hidden agreement with the Philippines side.

MS. SINGH: I'm not exactly clear, maybe not understanding about an agreement that you're referring to, but of course we continue to monitor what's happening in the South China Sea, we continue to be alarmed when these incidents happen, whether it be with Philippine vessels or other vessels. We want to be able to see the - you know, the - the freedom of navigation to be upheld. So of course we're going to continue to monitor what's happening there with our partners and allies.


Q: Thank you. My question is about another country in Africa, Chad. Could you give me the update on the situation in Chad? Has the withdrawal of the - has the withdrawal of - withdrawal been completed or are there any U.S. personnel remaining in the country?

MS. SINGH: Thanks for the question. So I actually don't have much of an update other than what we provided last week, which is that there were some military personnel that did leave the country. Some of which were already scheduled to rotate out.

We do still have military personnel in the country at the embassy, but I don't have more of an update for you on that other than that's basically where we were last week. 

Q: So the situation hasn't been changed because there was a presidential election yesterday. Yeah. 

MS. SINGH: today? Yeah. We're continuing our conversations with the government, but I just don't have more to share at this time. I'll come back in a sec. Let me just go. I have two more on the phones and then happy to come back in the room. 

Heather, USNI. 

Q: Thanks so much. So the Houthis have said that they're going to stop all ships that enter their operation or zone of operation in the Red Sea. So I have — and as well as target ships that they can reach with any of their weapons, including in the Med.

So I have two questions. The first is if there's been any talk of updating the presence in the Red Sea in order to combat this latest threat. And then the second one, is there any concerns about — or I guess, how is the U.S. prepared to protect ships that are going to be bringing in aid in the Med to the temporary appear from any potential Houthi attacks, considering that the Houthis might not recognize those as age ships versus commercial ships going towards Israel?

MS. SINGH: Hey, thanks, Heather, for the question. I will be candid. I missed a bit of the first part. But in terms of age ships getting into to the Eastern Med, and you're talking about aid being transported from the floating pier to the causeway. As we have said before, we have assurances from the IDF that they would be providing security around that transport, so whether it's any attacks from any group, the IDF, of course, will be providing that security. 

In terms of — and apologies, I did miss a little bit of the first part of your question. In terms of any posture changes in the Red Sea, no posture changes. Again, Operation Prosperity Guardian is something that continues to work every single day in a coalition to ensure the freedom of navigation through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. I don't have any posture changes to announce today from the podium. 

OK. And the last question from the phone. I'm happy to come back in the room. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose. 

Q: Thank you. I understand the Army has launched an administrative investigation into Staff Sergeant Black. I'm just curious, does DOD have any indications that he may have been lured to Russia as part of an effort by Russian intelligence to detain him?

MS. SINGH: Jeff, appreciate the question. This is something that the Army is looking into, which is why they've been — they've launched an investigation to determine the facts and the circumstances of his travel. And I just don't have anything more to add at this time. 

Happy to come back in the room. OK. We'll do two more. Three more.

Q: Some media is showing pictures that General Kurilla is in Egypt.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: Can you tell us what he's doing there? And if he has any other schedule events? 

MS. SINGH: I'd refer you to CENTCOM for more details. I don't have more on his travel. He does, you know, regularly travel to the region. I think he was there, if not last week, the week before. But I don't know his other schedule stops. But CENTCOM would be able to provide that information.

Q: We know any part of Director Burns travel to the Egypt today?

MS. SINGH: Not to my awareness. No. Fadi and then Erin.

Q: Sabrina, my question about this Israeli invasion of Rafah, you said it's — your understanding, this is a limited operation it aims to — or at cutting off Hamas' capabilities or ability to smuggle weapons and money. However, the process of bringing humanitarian aid through Rafah is controlled by both Egypt and Israel. And Israelis do screen shipments before they get into Rafah.

Were you presented by any information from Israel that proves that still Hamas has the ability to smuggle weapons and money to Rafah? 

MS. SINGH: So Fadi, as — yeah.

Q: And I just want to note that international organizations, including the U.N., and humanitarian, and NGOs have been complaining about Israel measures that are delaying the entry of humanitarian aid to Rafah through their screening and other steps.

MS. SINGH: Well, I think we've also been very public in our —

MS. SINGH: Well, just — 

Q: Why the operation — 

MS. SINGH: Let me just — 

Q: — to control them?

MS. SINGH: Let me just finish. So we've been very public and called from this podium from other podiums across, you know, the interagency that we want to see more humanitarian aid get into Gaza. It was directed by the President that we setup a maritime corridor to surge aid in because not enough is getting in. So we also are concerned with how much aid is getting in to Gaza. And that's also why you've seen CENTCOM take the measures that they have to do these airdrops. So I just — I appreciate the question, but I think also you have to remember that this government has been calling for it repeatedly. We want to see more. 

To your question on Hamas and being able to smuggle weapons, unfortunately, I just can't speak to the intelligence on that. But what I can tell you is that we're continuing to monitor the situation on the ground. We've been very clear about any type of large scale incursion into Rafah. And we know, we know how large that population is down there. And we know how dire the humanitarian situation is. So we do not want to see a large scale ground incursion into Rafah. 

Again, we're continuing to monitor what's happening on the ground. It's just happened earlier, you know, early hours this morning. So I just don't have more to share this time. Sure.

Q: So I understand. And your point of this is well-taken. I'm not talking about the U.S. government effort to bring in more aid or complaining about. 

MS. SINGH: Sure. 

Q: But this shows the contradiction, which is to say Israel is in control of what loads or does not flow into Gaza without controlling Rafah where they actually had that incursion or invasion. So are you taking what the Israelis are providing you at face value in terms of the aim of this operation is to cut off, the ability to smuggle weapons and money? Or are you going to actually look into those allegations? 

We believe what they are saying that this was a limited operation, that it was to cut off the movement, the traffic of weapons into Gaza through the Rafah crossing. But again, it's something that we're going to continue to monitor. This just happened earlier, you know, a few hours ago, so let us continue to monitor what's happening on the ground. 

Erin, last question. 

Q: Yes. With Israel, you keep using the word ironclad. But now, how is it such an ironclad relationship when we have — we're expected to delay the shipments of munitions there? So what makes it so ironclad now that we're delaying shipments? 

MS. SINGH: Well, what makes it ironclad, Erin, is since October 7th, you've seen this government surge humanitarian security assistance and humanitarian support to Israel. So let me just finish. So you've seen us continue to support Israel. I don't need to remind you of the attack that happened a few weeks ago on Israel from Iran where the U.S. partnered with Israel and other coalition forces to defeat that attack. 

Again, I don't have a comment on specific cases or shipments. But what I can tell you is through our actions and through what you've seen since October 7th, that's what we mean when our commitment to Israel and other coalition forces to defeat that attack. Again, I don't have a comment on specific cases or shipments.

But what I can tell you is through our actions and through what you've seen since October 7th, that's what we mean when our commitment to Israel is ironclad because we continue to stand by our partner and ally in their fight against a terrorist organization who continues to use civilians as human shields. But we also have hard conversations with our friends. And that's what you continue to see the Secretary do at his level and others across this — across the interagency do as well. 

Q: So yesterday morning with General Ryder, he stated that we had not seen a detailed plan about Rafah. Had we seen any plan prior to them entering Rafah?

MS. SINGH: Well, as I mentioned in a few weeks ago, there was a delegation that was here that, you know, briefed us broadly on their plans for Rafah. We have continued to engage the Israelis. And I think there was a readout at that time from the White House and some of those meetings. We're continuing to engage our Israeli counterparts. I just don't have more to share on their plans. 

Q: Not a delegation, but yesterday before they entered, did we know that they were going to go — had they talked to Secretary Austin prior to entering a couple hours before? 

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I think I answered that. I think Oren — asked that question. Look, I'm just not going to get into private — more details on the private conversations between Secretary Austin and Minister Gallant. Those conversations do happen often. They're frank. They're very direct. And I'll just leave it at that. 

Q: They're listening to Secretary Austin?

MS. SINGH: I do. I do actually think that. And the reason why is because since the beginning, we have seen the Israelis, the IDF make decisions that have been influenced and impacted by conversations with the secretary and other people across this department and the agent — the interagency. So yes, we do feel like they are listening.

OK. Thanks everyone.