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

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right, well, good afternoon, everyone. Just a few things — thank you, sir — just a few things at the top and then that'll get right to your questions.

First, let me start with a brief update on the status of the Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore capability, or JLOTS, that we're establishing in support of humanitarian assistance efforts with USAID and other partners. As my colleague Sabrina Singh briefed on Tuesday, the construction of the two portions of the JLOTS system, both the floating pier and the Trident pier, or causeway, have been completed and are currently positioned offshore at the Port of Ashdod awaiting final movement.

While I'm not going to provide a specific date, we expect these temporary piers to be put into position in the very near future, pending suitable security and weather conditions. In the meantime, the motor vessel Sagamore departed Cyprus today loaded with humanitarian aid for transloading onto the motor vessel Roy P. Benavidez, which is currently off the coast of Ashdod, to begin the process of staging humanitarian aid.

Now, once the floating pier and the Trident pier are in position, this will allow for the Benavidez to transload — load the aid to logistics support vessels and delivery while the motor vessel Sagamore is back in Cyprus to enable loading of additional aid.

And as you are aware, this is a complex operation which requires close coordination with many partners. The United States is joining an international community-backed effort led by USAID, with support from the United Nations, the World Food Program, the Republic of Cyprus, other partner nations, and the IDF to expand the delivery of humanitarian assistance via a maritime corridor to the people of Gaza.

We're grateful for the continued partnership and cooperation of all involved in this important effort, and we'll be sure to keep you updated as the JLOTS system becomes operational.

Switching gears, Secretary Austin hosted German Federal Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius today here in the Pentagon for a bilateral meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to support Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression.

The two leaders also exchanged views on the upcoming 75th anniversary NATO Washington Summit in July and addressed broader security issues, to include challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and our nation's mutual commitment to global stability and NATO's strategic goals. A full readout from the meeting will be posted to the DOD website later today.

Following his meeting with Minister Pistorius, Secretary Austin departed the Pentagon to travel to South Carolina, where he'll deliver the commencement address at South Carolina State university tomorrow. He'll also visit Fort Jackson to meet with troops, swear in some of our newest recruits joining the U.S. military, and see the Army's Future Soldier Preparatory Course.

And finally, after joining NATO last year, Finland forged a new tie with the Department of Defense when they signed their formal state partnership agreement with the Virginia National Guard at a ceremony in Helsinki on May 2nd.

While only recently formalized, the partnership between Finland and the Virginia Guard goes back to 2001, when the 29th Infantry Division of the Virginia Army Guard deployed with Finnish Defense Forces as part of Stabilization Force 10 in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The National Guard's state partnership program now includes 89 partnerships with 106 nations around the globe. And I would encourage you to reach out to National Guard Bureau for more information.

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

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. First on Rafah and then a second topic. The President yesterday said that depending on what happens in Rafah, he may also pause potentially artillery and weapons shipments to Israel. And a senior administration official said earlier this week that JDAM kits were possibly under consideration as something else that might be paused. 

Can you give us an update on these shipments? The — one, the 2,000 pound and 500 pound bombs that are already paused? And whether the Pentagon has received any request to pause additional weapons shipments?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. First, you know, let me — let me just say up front, Tara, that, as you heard both Secretary Austin and the President say, our commitment to Israel's inherent right to self-defense remains ironclad. And as you know, we've provided billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel. We've supported their efforts to defend themselves, most recently Iran's unprecedented attack. So there should be no question that we will continue to stand by Israel when it comes to their defense.

Also, as Secretary Austin and the President highlighted yesterday, we're currently reviewing some near-term security assistance. Specifically, we paused one shipment of weapons consisting of 1,800 2,000 pound bombs and 1,700 500 pound bombs. 

We've not made a final determination on how to proceed with this shipment, and, you know, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. Again, we've been very clear on our views as it relates to Rafah and any ground operations there, and I'll just leave it there.

Q: What would, I guess, determine your final decision on whether to send weapons? What do you need from Israel in order to send them weapons or to determine that you're not sending weapons?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'm not — again, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. As I mentioned, we've — we have paused one shipment. And of course, we're continuing to discuss with Israeli officials, you know, their plans as it relates to Rafah and addressing the Hamas threat.

Q: OK. And then a separate topic. On Friday, a Florida sheriff's deputy shot and killed senior airman Roger Fortson. He was in his own off-base apartment. The — the deputy entered the apartment and shot and killed him. Has Secretary Austin been following this? Is he concerned at all? Has he reached out to the family? And are there any kind of greater concerns about all of the military personnel that live in off-base housing when you have law enforcement coming, responding to a call?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Well, first of all, the — the Secretary is following this closely. And — and I would like to offer our thoughts and prayers to airman Fortson's family. We are of course saddened at the loss of one of our own. 
   I know that his death is currently under investigation, so I'll — I'll have to refer you to the Florida civil authorities for any questions about what happened, but we do know that his family is grieving and we offer our sincere condolences.

Q: Has the Secretary reached out to the family?

GEN. RYDER: Not to my knowledge.


Q: Pat, a little more detail on the pier. You said the Sagamore is underway, it'll load onto the Benavidez, and then the Benavidez will load onto smaller ships. Is that — can you ...

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so the way to think of this, Tom — sure. The way to think of this is in this period of time that we have before the pier becomes operational, we're — we're essentially using that time to get ahead. And since the Sagamore has been loaded with humanitarian assistance, by transloading that onto the Benavidez, the Benavidez is essentially in position to immediately start loading that onto the floating pier for subsequent shipment to the causeway and delivery to the shore.

Since the Benavidez will be on the scene, so to speak, the day we pull the trigger and — and start operations, that then frees up the Sagamore to go back to Cyprus to load up with additional aid. And then once this process gets going, the way to think of this is you'll have that floating pier several miles off-shore, ships will go directly from Cyprus to the floating pier to — to unload.

But because we're, again, waiting for the appropriate security and weather conditions to kick this off, we're going to use that time to our advantage to move forward.

Q: So the Benavidez will unload onto the pier itself?

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: And then do we know who will be driving the trucks along the causeway to the beach?

GEN. RYDER: So, there will be non-U.S. civilian contractors that will be driving those vehicles on the causeway onto the beach.

Yeah. Bill?

Q: Real quick on the Benavidez and all that. Is that going to be the regular rhythm for you all or is that just what you're going to do to prime the pump … 

GEN. RYDER: That's just priming the pump, right? So, yeah. Yeah. So essentially after that, what will happen is the floating pier will be available for vessels to docket, to transload onto the logistic support field vessels. And so, you know, it could be the Benavidez, it could be the Sagamore, it could be other ships, again, that are picking up aid in Cyprus and bringing it to that floating pier.

Q: And then, on the pause and some munitions, you know, could you explain a little bit about, you know, why those munitions were paused? And give us a sense, if you could, if Israel's trying to attack, you know, underground facilities used by Hamas, why those wouldn't be appropriate for that mission.

GEN. RYDER: Well, again, you know, as we assess the situation in Rafah, we made the decision to pause this one shipment. Again, as I highlighted, a final determination has not been made on how to proceed with that shipment. 

But specifically, we're focused on the end use, especially rather focused on the end use of the 2,000-pound bombs and the impact that they could have in a dense urban setting as we've seen in other parts of Gaza. So, that's something that we'll continue to look at.

Now, again, looking at the broader context of the U.S.-Israel relationship, as I highlighted, we're going to continue to support Israel and its defensive needs in terms of the capabilities they need to defend himself. So again, we're talking about one shipment consisting of those 2,000 pounds and 500-pound bombs. Thanks.

Q: Gen. Pat, just quickly on the 2,000-pound bombs, can you say the last time there was a shipment of the 2000-pound bombs to Israel?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have that information to provide, Tom.

Q: So, yesterday, the President acknowledged that Palestinian civilians have been killed by U.S.-provided weapons. Do you have a number of how many or assessment of how many civilians were killed by these weapons? And does the Secretary feel any moral obligation to kind of make that assessment?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have a number, Fadi. Again, as we've said from the beginning, the loss of any innocent lives in this conflict are tragic. We've been very clear from the start with our Israeli partners that we expect that they will employ any capabilities we provide them in accordance with the law of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. And that has been a consistent and steady conversation that we've had from — with them from the beginning, and it continues to now.

So again, as they contemplate how they will approach Hamas and Rafah, we certainly have provided our thoughts in how to best do that to take civilian safety and humanitarian assistance into account. And we'll continue to have those conversations.

Q: You're talking about expectations. However, as you just mentioned before that one of the consideration about the 2,000-pound bombs is the density of the population in Rafah and how they were used before in other location by Israel. Why didn't you restrict before the use of these bombs knowing that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world? And were you expecting something different? Was that a mistake not to restrict the use of these bombs in Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: Well, you know, look, a couple of things. First of all, again, we've been very consistent from the beginning in terms of how we believe that Israel should approach addressing the threat of Hamas about the importance of precision in going after Hamas. And we've also been very clear that more needs to be done to ensure the safety and security of civilians, innocent civilians in Gaza.

You know, and I don't have to tell you again, the challenging environment here with an adversary that, again, embeds itself amongst the civilian population. That said, we absolutely do not want to see innocent lives lost in this tragic conflict. So again, we're going to continue to consult with Israel as they look at how to address Hamas in Rafah. And we will continue to do what we can to not only ensure that civilian safety is taken into account, but also look at how we can continue to get humanitarian assistance, whether it's by land, sea or air to help the – the people of Gaza.

Q: … one follow-up, and this is technical. Is there any interest in the Pentagon to look into how many civilians were killed by U.S.-provided bombs?

GEN. RYDER: You know, look, Fadi, right now, there's an ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel. And we understand the complex and dynamic nature of that conflict. So, our focus right now is on getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza. Also, continuing to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. And again, I'd highlight just several weeks ago when they were attacked by Iran in an unprecedented air attack. So, those threats are real.

And at the end of the day, what we're all working toward alongside many partners in the international community is a situation where Israelis and Palestinians can live next to one another in peace. There can be security and stability in Gaza and the region. And again, we'll continue to work toward that.

Let me go to Chris.

Q: Thanks, Pat. Just quick clarification on the munitions. These are just purely the dump bombs themselves, not any associated guidance kit that may come along with it.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks. Chris, I appreciate the question. I'm just not going to be able to get into more specifics on the package itself.

Q: Well, but I mean, presumably part of the issue is the nature of these weapons being unguided causing damage.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Again, I'm not going to get into the — into more specifics. Yeah. I mean, you know how these systems work, right? You have bombs, which are essentially dumb bombs that you put JDAM kits on, but it relates to this particular shipment. I'm not going to get more specific on the details of that beyond what I've already provided.

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

Q: Hey, Pat. Thank you. I have a couple of questions. First of all, could you speak to the DOD assessment of what impact, if any, the pause in these particular weapons will have on Israel's ability to continue its campaign or the — anything about what you guys think the impact will be or maybe there will be no impact? And then, I have another question.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, I appreciate the question, Missy. I'm not going to get into assessing Israeli military operations and their readiness and potential impact on operations. Again, I think as we've highlighted, as we see the operations being conducted in Rafah and as we assess those, the decision has been made to pause this one shipment. So, I won't go beyond that. And your follow up?

Q: Yeah. So, my other question is related to what Kirby said earlier at his gaggle about how, you know, the United States is hoping that Israel doesn't launch a full-fledged offensive into Rafah city, but that the U.S. will continue to work with Israel and other things, including sealing the border between Gaza and Egypt, and also helping Israel target leaders including Sinwar that, you know, the U.S. is doing on an ongoing basis, he said. And so, I'm just wondering if you could provide any more detail on those two activities since their military activity is like, what exactly is happening vis a vis trying to make the border more secure — and then on the targeting front. Because it's a little bit confusing about the targeting set that the U.S. was not providing targeting assistance.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Thanks, Missy. So, to be unfortunately unsatisfying, I'm not going to have more details provide other than, again, broadly speaking. We understand and support Israel's right to defend itself. And, of course, as an important partner and ally, we're going to continue to consult with them as we have been from the beginning on how best to do that. But as it relates to those specifics, I don't have anything to provide beyond what Mr. Kirby already passed along.

GEN. RYDER: Let me go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thank you. You had mentioned that the incident in Florida is under investigation, but I'm just wondering, does the Defense Department have any advice or words for airmen at Hurlburt who may be feeling pretty angry right now over this incident?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Thanks, Jeff. Again, you know, a tragic situation here. As I mentioned, you know, we're certainly, you know, saddened by the loss of our airmen. You know, we obviously need to allow the investigation to run its course. Don't want to get ahead of that. But you know, we certainly never want to see our airmen or any military member or any part of our DOD family be put into a situation like this. So again, we need to allow time for the investigation on this course. And you know, we'll certainly have more to say once we've had the opportunity to see that. Thanks. Lara.

Q: Thank you. I was hoping you could give us DOD's assessment of Israel's campaign in Rafah right now. They've been doing airstrikes for weeks. My understanding is they evacuated hundred thousand people from a certain area. Now, they are bombing and on the ground in a certain part of Rafah. Can you say if that's generally correct? And does DOD assess that this is still a limited operation?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, we do assess at this stage that it is a limited operation. As I'm sure you can appreciate, I'm not in a position nor would I provide an operational briefing on behalf of Israel. But yes, it's — all indications are at this time that it is a relatively limited operation meant to secure that area. And so, again, we'll continue to assess and monitor. That's all I've got at this point.

Q: Have the Israelis briefed DOD on any additional plans to move further into Rafah or to expand the scope of the operation?

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

Q: Thank you, General. To what extent do you know that Hamas is on board with the JLOTS plan? Is there direct communication between U.S. military leadership and Hamas leaders to make sure that they're not going to try to scuttle this? And then, what happens if things go terribly wrong on the beachfront? Is it Israel responsibility or does the U.S. have contingency plans if Hamas were to attack the pier itself?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, to answer the question, no. No conversations between DOD and Hamas. And again, you know, I'm not going to get into its intelligence other than to say we have no intelligence at this point in time to indicate that Hamas is actively targeting JLOTS or the humanitarian assistance.

That said, look, this is a combat zone, it's a dangerous area. And — and so we are going to continue to take security absolutely seriously. It's going to be a priority for this operation, it has been a priority for this operation. And we'll do what we need to ensure that our forces are protected and those that are supporting this — this operation.

And so, you know, to that point, I think as you see this go on, the commanders on the ground, the commander — the U.S. commanders that are overseeing this out at — at sea and from Israel, you know, they will have the authorities to make decisions as necessary, based on the conditions as it relates to any type of security situation.

But all that to say right now we would certainly hope that if Hamas truly does care about the Palestinian people, that they would not threaten humanitarian assistance being delivered to people in dire need. And for our part, we'll continue to work with the international community to rush that aid in.

Q: And who's responsible for the security of these non-U.S. civilian contractors on the ground that are going to be on the pier and on the beach?

GEN. RYDER: So as it relates to the — the security at the assembly area where aid comes off, of course Israel will be providing security there and working and coordinating with World Food Program in order to — and — and others — USAID and others to — to provide that security on the ground. But again, I don't want to get into specific details on that for operation security reasons.

Let me go to this gentleman.

Q: Thank you. Just a quick follow-up on the bombs. Do you have an assessment of how many of these heavy bombs that Israel already has? Like, do they already have a sustainable stockpile?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I just — I'm not going to get into the weapons inventory of a partner country. I'd — I'd refer you to them to talk about their inventory.

Q: ... quick follow on Rafah. You mentioned — sorry — on Rafah — and I forgot what I was going to say.

GEN. RYDER: That's OK. I can come back to you.

All right, let me go to Wafaa from Alhurra.

Q: Thank you, General. General, can you please tell us what's your definition of a large-scale operation in Rafah, or what would the Pentagon consider acceptable in terms of the number of casualties resulting of such operation?

And I have another question.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Wafaa. So — so look, you know, I — I'm — I'm not going to paint out hypothetical scenarios as it relates to Rafah. I think you — you have to take a step back and — and look at what we're talking about here. 

You've got more than a million people condensed into a relatively small area. And doing any type of large-scale military operation within the confines of that area present significant risks to the civilian population there which has already been put in a very, very challenging situation.

And — and so our focus has been on communicating with our Israeli partners on the fact that we both agree that Hamas needs to be defeated and that we understand that Hamas has elements within Rafah, but to do it in a way that takes the safety of civilians into account as they conduct those operations.

And so again, as we have observed the — this limited operation so far and — in a portion of Rafah, we're continuing to assess that, and in the meantime have paused that one shipment of weapons. 

And then I'm sorry, you had a follow-up?
   Q: Yes. So Mr. Kirby today talked about alternatives to defeat Hamas without the need for a — the — alternative that do not require large-scale invasion. Can you please talk a little bit about these alternatives?

GEN. RYDER: I'm — I'm sorry, Wafaa, you're coming in a little bit broken. Talk about what — what ...

Q: Alternatives to defeat Hamas that do not require large-scale invasion.

GEN. RYDER: Gotcha. You know, so look, these are things that we've talked about in the past, in terms of sequencing, right? So the evacuation of civilians from the battle space to a degree where you don't have the large, you know, grouping of people that are — could potentially be impacted by this. It's ensuring that when you have evacuated those — those people, that they have access to food, water, sanitation, shelter. And then of course, approaching the Hamas threat in a precise manner, you know, counter-terrorism-style, as you've seen us and the Israelis do elsewhere in the past. So those are some examples.

OK, let me ...

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: ... come back to the room here. Janne?

Q: Thank you, General. Two questions. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said at a press conference yesterday that he would not provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. Does the United States still want 155 millimeter artillery shells and offensive weapons supports from South Korea?

GEN. RYDER: Well, look, I'll — I'll let the Republic of Korea speak for itself when it comes to what they feel comfortable with providing to support Ukraine. As you know, the ROK are — are an incredible ally and they certainly have provided assistance — non-lethal assistance to Ukraine and support the broader effort to deter and prevent Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But again, it's for them to talk about. We're just grateful for any nation that can contribute in some way to help send a clear signal to authoritarian regimes that invading your democratic, peaceful neighbor is not acceptable behavior. Thank you.

Q: ... Russia — the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that Russia will conduct [an] exercise on the use of tactical nuclear weapons. How can you predict possibility of cooperation between Russia and North Korea in the use of tactical nuclear weapons?

GEN. RYDER: Well, look, you know, I talked about this before. I've seen that reported in the press, and I would just say again it's irresponsible, reckless saber-rattling that is — that is dangerous, given the current climate — international security environment climate. And I'll just leave it at that.


Q: Thanks, Pat. On senior airman Fortson, can you say whether — it — the Defense Department or the Air Force is assisting or — with the investigation?

GEN. RYDER: I'd have to refer you to the Air Force. You know, again, the — as I understand it, the Florida civil authorities are investigating, but I'd refer you to the Air Force for any more questions on that.


Q: Thank you very much, General. The fact that the President said that U.S. bombs were used to kill civilians in Gaza is pretty striking. Does that mean that the — the Israeli military campaign has somehow made the United States complicit in it — in any of that? Is that why the Biden administration is now saying "we don't want any part of that in Rafah"? Is that — is that ...

GEN. RYDER: Well, look, I'm — I'm not going to speak for the President. I think we — again, we've been very clear from the beginning that after Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7th, and again, I think it's important to remember that 1,200 people killed, over 250 hostages taken. Half of whom are still being held. And it's important that no one forget that fact that Hamas is still holding these individuals hostage.

Our focus has been on supporting Israel to defend itself from attacks by Hamas and so that they can defend their people and prevent another October 7th from happening. At the same time, as this conflict has progressed, we've seen the unfortunate impact that it's had on the civilian population in Gaza.

And again, we've been very clear that we do not want to see innocent civilians killed, whether they'd be Palestinian or Israeli. And so we've been working very closely with the international community to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza. We've been working to ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself, but we also recognize the fact that more needs to be done to safeguard civilians in the battle space. And so, again, we'll continue to work toward that.

Q: I have one follow-up. If the President makes that determination that U.S. bombs are killing civilians anywhere, you know, any country that you've supplied those weapons to, does that determination come from the Department of Defense to the White House? And if so, what's the standard procedure with that said country?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Again, I appreciate the question. I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals. As you know, we have a process by which we employ when it comes to evaluating the use of security assistance. And that process is currently ongoing. It's led by the State Department, so I'd refer you to them in that regard. 

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you, General. Two quick question on — in Syria, especially in northeast Syria. You know, according to some local reports on local people, Iran is endeavoring to expand its influence, you know, in Syria. And this is by using the local tribes, especially the Arak tribes, to establish some proxy groups with —which they established in Iraq — no, in Syria. So is that something that concerns you? Or have you ever noticed this? And is there — this is concerns you or has any rise eyebrows in Washington?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. I mean, look, this is not new behavior from Iran. It's how they do business, right? So essentially, by trying to train and influence proxy groups to essentially project their foreign policy of trying to expel the U.S. and other partners from the region in order to be able to do whatever it is they want to do unchecked. And so, of course, that's something that we continue to keep an eye on, you know?

And I think it's important that from a U.S. perspective, you know, when it comes to the Middle East region, we respect the sovereignty of the countries that we work with, unlike some of these proxy groups, which have embedded themselves into the region. And when it comes to uncovered spaces like Syria, we're going to continue to stay focused, number one, on the defeat ISIS mission, but we're also going to maintain awareness of broader regional threats as we work with allies and partners to keep an eye on it. And again, to prevent potential, you know, future situations whereby our forces are citizens or, you know, importantly, our allies and partners are threatened.

Q: Last question. As you spoke of the ISIS, according to the security officials in northern Syria, the ISIS activities in increasing the past five months. And one of the security officials said that the ISIS is slowly but surely growing stronger. And in the recent day, they killed a member of the SDF. So what's your assessment on that, especially on the ISIS activities? And how do you – going to help the – the SDF to prevent the resurgence of the ISIS?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Well, again, the international coalition to defeat ISIS still exists today. And we continue to work closely with the international community to address the ISIS threat. As it relates to Iraq and Syria, ISIS is by no means what it was 10 years ago. And that's a good thing. 

That said, to your point, we can't rest on our laurels and we need to continue to work together to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in that that region. You still have places like Al-Hawl, which contains, you know, several thousand ISIS prisoners that need to be repatriated back to their countries of origin. And so we continue to work with the international community on that front.

When you look more broadly in terms of ISIS around the world in places like Africa or Afghanistan, you do see ISIS starting to gain some traction. And so this will continue to be something that's very important from a counterterrorism standpoint and a threat we need to continue to take seriously.

Thank you. Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you, General. So two questions. One on Syria. Recently, U.S. expatriates like some prisoners from the Al-Hawl camps. And there are 11, I think, 11 people. And one is a non-U. S. citizen. So how does count?

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry, the 11 prisoners that..

Q: … from the Al-Hawl camps that — like ISIS members, but U.S. expatriated them to the country. One is a non-U.S. citizen.

GEN. RYDER: If I understand your correct question correctly. So essentially, yes. I mean, that is the goal is to essentially repatriate those individuals back to their countries of origin so that they can be — it can be addressed in their own domestic legal systems on how best to, you know, address that threat.

Again, what you don't want is essentially a terrorist breeding ground where it essentially becomes a tinderbox waiting to explode. And so I know U.S. Central Command, U.S. State Department, has been working very closely with partners throughout the region, throughout the world to address this, and, of course, working with the SDF from a — the forces that are actually running and maintaining that facility.

Q: One question on Rafah. Well, you are working on building piers to provide humanitarian aid into Gaza. And as you know, the Israel has controlled border gates into Rafah. How has that made it difficult to get aid into Gaza, into Rafah?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, you know, broadly speaking again, what you're seeing here and, you know, another way to look at this pier is essentially as another gate into Rafah to get aid into. So in addition to working to make sure that there's an increase in flow of aid via land, it's also — we also have the opportunity via sea. And as you know, we've also been providing aid via air. So that's the way that we look at it. Yes, sir?

Q: Hey, Pat. I just want — Israel, I think, has done as much or more to secure noncombatants in Rafah as the U.S. has done in its own urban — difficult urban battles in the past, going from Fallujah, all the way back to the Battle of Manila in the Second World War. Is the U.S. holding Israel to a standard, an unreasonable standard that it has never really bothered to secure for itself?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. So, yeah. So look, I'm going to look at every situation based on its merits, based on the current operating environment. And the fact is, we are where we are today. And I think we've been very clear, both publicly and privately that as Israel contemplates its operations in Rafah, that we would expect to see it be done in a way that takes civilian safety into account.

And, you know, again, the President and Secretary Austin have both said that as we assess what's happening in Rafah right now, we put a pause on this one shipment of weapons. Again, taking a step back to be clear, our commitment to Israel's defense will remain iron clad. And we will continue to ensure and take all necessary steps to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself from threats in the region to include Hamas.

Q: Yeah, October 7th, the President said that he was behind Israel's plan to destroy Hamas. Is that still the case anymore or is he sort of winding that back?

GEN. RYDER: We believe that Hamas needs to be defeated. Absolutely. Thank you. Sure.

Q: Just a quick point of clarification. On the Israeli military's relatively limited incursion vicinity of Rafah, I believe Israeli officials have said that it's intended to cut off the weapons to Hamas in that area.

To what extent does this resemble — the initial move — the IDF made here? To what extent does that resemble that, you know, the tailored operational plans, U.S. officials have discussed with their Israeli counterparts or does this appear to be more consistent with shaping operations for larger scale ground clearing?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Again, I'm not going to get into trying to characterize from the podium here detailed Israeli operations other than, again, what we've observed and what they've told us in terms of it being a limited operation. So last question. Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, two questions, please. One, conflicts around the globe still going on, one after another, and they are connected with military. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi still influenced among global leaders. Do you think he has any power, any influence to stop and end these conflicts and wars going on?

GEN. RYDER: Are you asking me if Prime Minister Modi has influence to stop conflicts?

Q: Some of the leaders where these wars are going on, like, Russia, in Ukraine, and in the Middle East, and all that influences more than ever today.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. I appreciate the question, (inaudible). As I'm sure you can appreciate, I'm not going to make a judgment regarding the leader of India, other than to say that, look, India is an important and strategic nation, and a very important part of the world. And from a U.S. standpoint, we, of course, very much appreciate the relationship that we have with India and from a defense department standpoint. Look forward to continuing to bolster our security cooperation relationship. Thank you.

Q: And second, sir.


Q: Secretaries of State and Treasury were in China recently, and both of them warned China in their own ways and different that not to influence elections or not to interfere in the U.S. interference in many ways, including cyber and all that. 

My question is, is this building, DOD or Pentagon, affected about or about those warning to China in any way as far as the U.S. and national security is concerned?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Look, when it comes to election security, the Department of Defense, of course, plays a role in that as you know. I won't get into the specifics of that other than it's something that we take very seriously to ensure the integrity of our own elections to include on the cyber side. So I'll just leave it there.

Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.