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Major Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds an Off-Camera, On-the-Record Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: Not too much to pass along today; just a few things here at the top.

As you know, Secretary Austin returned this weekend from a trip to France, where he participated in the 80th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landing in Normandy. He also met with the French minister of defense, Minister Lecornu, to discuss France's support for Ukraine, the upcoming NATO Defense Ministerial and the roadmap to the NATO Summit in July.

This trip to France was on the heels of a very productive trip to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue. While he was there, the secretary had the opportunity to meet with key allies and partners in the region. He conducted a short trip to Cambodia to engage with the new administration there.

This was his 10th trip to the Indo-Pacific, and as you saw in a lot of our materials that we put out, this really comes at a time when we're doing more than ever to strengthen our partnerships and alliances throughout the region to advance peace, stability and deterrence.

And sticking with travel, Secretary Austin and General Brown will travel to Brussels on Wednesday to host the 23rd Ukraine Defense Contact Group on June 13th. The secretary and the chairman will join ministers of defense and senior military officials from nearly 50 nations to assess the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the continued support from the international community to provide Ukrainian people with the means necessary to defend their sovereign territory. While he's in Brussels, Secretary Austin will also participate in the NATO Defense Ministerial on June 14th at NATO headquarters.

And then just switching to a few operational and policy updates, as reported over the weekend, U.S. Central Command resumed the delivery of humanitarian assistance ashore in Gaza from JLOTS. To date, CENTCOM has assisted in the delivery of more than 1,573 metric tons, or approximately 3.5 million pounds of humanitarian aid to the shore for onward distribution. After going operational on 8 June, a total of approximately 492 metric tons, or approximately 1.1 million pounds was delivered across the pier.

Of note, just to push back on some of the inaccurate social media allegations you saw over the weekend, CENTCOM pushed out a statement over the weekend that the humanitarian pier facility, including its equipment, personnel and assets, were not used in the IDF's operation to rescue hostages in Gaza, and any such claim to the contrary is false. To underscore, the temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only: to help move additional urgently-needed lifesaving assistance to Gaza.

Additionally, on June 9, a USC-130 dropped more than 10 metric tons of meals ready to eat, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance in northern Gaza. To date, the U.S. has airdropped more than 1,050 metric tons of humanitarian assistance in addition to the assistance delivered by the Joint Logistics Over-The-Sea (sic) corridor.

And then finally, as you may recall, back on February 26th, Secretary Austin directed the department to update and develop issuances, guidance and training related to the assumption of functions and duties of the secretary of defense. The department has completed all actions directed by the secretary in the February 26 memo, which is posted, as you recall, on the DOD website. These actions include issuing a new DOD direction -- directive, 3020.53, Assumption of Functions and Duties of the Secretary of Defense, that establishes policy for the roles and responsibilities associated with the assumption of functions and duties of the secretary of defense by the deputy secretary of defense or another designated official, as determined by the order of succession or by the President. Also includes an updated DOD issuance, 3020.26, Defense Continuity Policy. Additionally, all of the associated training materials and the training plan to ensure the department's continued readiness on continuity matters are complete. As Secretary Austin stated in his February 26 memo, we are a learning organization and we'll continue to strengthen our processes as we identify ways to improve upon our existing procedures. The department's follow-up -- follow-through actions reflect our ongoing work to strengthen our processes.

And with that, be happy to take your questions, Lita Baldor.

Q: Thanks, Pat. Can you provide a bit more clarity on the pier? USAID, World Food Program have said that they paused their -- any of their aid delivery. Can you tell us, A, how long specifically did the pier actually -- was it open between the time it reopened late last week and it shut down again for aid delivery? And is there any aid being delivered right now or are there plans for some this week? If the aid agencies don't -- are doing the security review, does it just get sort of stacked in a warehouse somewhere? And then I have one other quick follow-up.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So a few things. So first of all, I won't -- I won't speak for World Food Program. I'd refer you to them in terms of the status of their operations. Obviously, as we've been doing all along, we'll continue to work closely with USAID, World Food Program, the Israelis and all the stakeholders when it comes to ensuring, you know, security is taken into account.

As it relates to the pier, as mentioned, you know, it was anchored on 7 June; went operational on 8 June. I talked about the aid that was delivered on that first day to the assembly area for onward distribution. As I understand it, the sea states on yesterday and today have prevented additional aid from flowing across the causeway, but all indications are that that will commence again tomorrow.

The point being is that -- that JLOTS will continue to deliver aid into the assembly area, where then NGOs like World Food Program will pick it up and take it onward for further distribution. As to their operations, I'm going to have to refer you to them.

Q: Right, no, I understood that. Can you tell us a little more precisely, how close did the rescue operations get to the pier? The aid agencies are saying that out of concern for their safety they're pausing operations, and they're pointing to that operation as a risk to their safety. Can you tell us how close it got? 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so that's really a question for the IDF. I don't -- I don't have a proximate location as -- you know, it was -- it was near, but I think it's incidental. The again, the pier, the equipment, the personnel -- all supporting a humanitarian effort had nothing to do with the IDF rescue operation. It is only focused on delivery of humanitarian (sic) assistance.

Q: Right, but I think the issue is it was so close to where the pier was. I think that -- that was their concern. That's why I'm wondering if you could put some perspective into sort of distance.

GEN. RYDER: I -- I don't have a distance other than to say, again, you know, that we've acknowledged that there was some type of helicopter activity nearby, but that was completely separate and not associated with the JLOTS operation, and that's a question for the Israelis to address.

GEN. RYDER: Natasha.

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. So following up on that too, there's also some defensive weaponry that's near the pier, including, for example, a C-RAM. Do you know if that was used at all during this operation?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not tracking any employment of that.

Q: Okay. And then on the hostage rescue itself, you know, the White House has come out and said that there was joint -- it was kind of a, you know, process of the -- a fusion cell inside Israel with American and Israeli operatives, intelligence operatives working together to try to find the hostages. Can you talk about what the DOD's role in that was, if any?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so what I would tell you -- a few things, so first of all, you know, beyond the -- the broad acknowledgment that the U.S., is supportive and is, you know, providing -- has provided support generally when it comes to hostage recovery efforts, you know, we're just not going to get into specifics on details, in terms of what intelligence support may or may not have looked like.

I can tell you that there was no U.S. military involvement in this rescue operation, nor were there any U.S. forces on the ground.

GEN. RYDER: Phil. 

Q: Has the U.S., or has your military expressed any concerns whatsoever to the Israelis about using an area so close to the pier for this operation?

And also, have had to change your force posture in any way as a result?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I'm not tracking any changes in force posture. As I mentioned, you know, we're always going to be having conversations with the Israelis and others that are involved in this humanitarian operation to take security considerations into account. I don't have any specifics as it relates to the hostage rescue operation.

I mean, we're obviously very glad that -- that four Israelis were able to be rescued. But as it relates to, you know, security writ large and security concerns of any partners, I'm sure those will be discussions that take place, you know, within the coordinating cell.

Q: Let me just rephrase that. Do you have -- do you think that this operation put U.S. forces at any greater risk, now that there's a perception that the pier has been used for, you know, pro-Israeli military --

GEN. RYDER: So, yeah --

Q: Operations, and how do you think that might affect the humanitarian mission as well? Because, you know, you obviously don’t want to have the perception that the -- that the pier is being used for --

GEN. RYDER: So no, I don't think it puts our forces at greater risk. And again, to emphasize, the pier has nothing to do -- had nothing to do with the rescue operation. And so, again, I appreciate you all reporting on that so that there are no misconceptions.

GEN. RYDER: Let me go to Nick.

Q: Given the fusion cell participation, can you speak at all about the heads-up or the communications by the Israelis before the operation about the proximity to the pier that the operation might actually end up being?

GEN. RYDER: You know, again, you're going to have to talk to the Israelis about -- about their rescue operations. And I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Okay. And then you said JLOTS will continue to deliver aid to the assembly area, given that WFP and USAID have frozen the onward movement.

Is there a maximum? Is there a point at which you can't deliver through the JLOTS until they start delivering from the assembly area?

GEN. RYDER: I mean, it's a pretty large area. So I don't think that that's a concern. I think we can continue to stockpile aid in the assembly area for onward distribution. And, again, you know, we're going to continue to work closely with all stakeholders to -- to take security concerns into account.

Looking at the forest through the trees here, this is about getting aid to the people of Gaza. And -- and I'm, again, not going to speak for World Food Program, but, you know, they have done some incredible work to try to save people in Gaza, and I have no doubt that they will continue to find a way to -- to make that happen.

Q: And so you're tracking the aid, continuing path through the JLOTS starting tomorrow, the sea stable --

GEN. RYDER: Sea states depending, but, you know, that's the game plan. And we're going to, you know, I mean, Admiral Cooper talked to this on Friday, when you did the -- you know, the backgrounder, the press briefing that, you know, weather and sea states are going to potentially be factors.

So we'll -- we'll do this smartly; we'll do it safely. But all -- all indications are we're going to continue to flow aid and try to get that to the people of Gaza.

And, oh, by the way, as I mentioned, we also will take the opportunity, when necessary, to do airdrops, which we are able to do, to continue to get aid in. And that airdrop was on the 9th. So, even though there was not aid flowing across the causeway, there was an airdrop to get people aid as well.


Q: Thank you. Can you tell us, because I'm very confused about the timeline, how many days total has the pier actually been operational, since it was first --

GEN. RYDER: Anchored on the 7th, and went operational on the 8th.

Q: Uh-huh, right, okay, but that was re-anchored, right? So that's --

GEN. RYDER: Re-anchored on the 7th --

Q: So that was one day -- one day.

GEN. RYDER: That's what I said.

Q: And then how many -- but how many days before that of a one or two-week period where it was operational last month?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, I think we can go back and look at that. I mean, we've been pretty public on that.


Q: Thank you. We've seen U.S. troops attacked and even killed before because of misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories. How would you categorize what we're seeing right now with the pier and the belief in Gaza that U.S. troops are involved?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, you know, look, you guys are all following this very closely. And you know -- and it's not just this operation. And it is not just this -- this theater. You know, disinformation and misinformation are challenges globally, but particularly in this environment, given what you're seeing play out in the Israel-Hamas conflict. There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation about what U.S. forces are not doing, which is why briefings like this and others that we do are important and why your role is so important to, you know, ensure that the facts are getting out there.

So, you know, I'm not going to echo or amplify bad information other than to say that this pier is there for one reason only, and that is to help deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, period.

Q: A couple questions. On the hostage raid, or hostage rescue operation, has there -- there were a pretty high number of civilians killed, at least reported in relation to that one. Has -- has DOD raised any concerns about that that specific incident with the Israels?

And, two, does DOD have any kind of clarity from the Israelis on the civilian toll from that operation?

GEN. RYDER: Well, you know, a couple things. So, one, as I'm sure you're tracking, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health is saying one number; the Israelis are saying another number. I think National Security Adviser Sullivan, you know, acknowledged yesterday that we are aware that there were civilian casualties associated with the rescue operation, which, of course, is tragic.

And, look, we've been very clear publicly and privately about the importance of ensuring that civilians are -- are considered and taken into account when conducting operations. That said, again, you know, the fact that Hamas continues to embed itself among the civilian population, the fact that they continue to hold over 100 people hostage, you know, they could end this all today by releasing those hostages and -- and taking the cease-fire deal that the Israelis have put out there and that the president has -- has talked about.

So, you know, again, that's the information we have right now.

Q: On -- on the airdrops, do you have -- when was the last airdrop before yesterday? How long of a pause was there?

And was that exclusively due to Israeli military operations in the area or also because of the weather?

GEN. RYDER: So, you know, we'll have to come back to you on the exact data. I don't have it right in front of me. But, you know, there's going to be a variety of factors that are taken into account on the optimal way to deliver aid. And so you're going to see, from time to time, based on a variety of factors, you, whether it's the security situation on the ground, whether it's weather, whether -- you know, what's the optimal route to get aid, that that's going to fluctuate.

But the point is, it is a capability that we have and that we will employ. And again, this is part of an international effort to get aid into Gaza, both by land, sea and air. And so, again, we're going to continue to work with the international community to get aid in as quickly as we can.

Q: Hi, Pat. Could I ask a Ukraine question? The supplies are start -- U.S. supplies are starting to make it into Ukraine. Are they making a difference on the front lines now?

GEN. RYDER: I would say they are. As you know, the Secretary had the -- the chance to meet with President Zelenskyy both in Singapore and as part of the President's bilat with President Zelenskyy in Paris. And, you know, our message was clear, that we're going to do everything we can to rush aid to the Ukrainians.

And -- and I think the fact that you've seen essentially the -- the Russians really slow down in terms of -- of the progress that they were making near Kharkiv, you know, demonstrates that, A, the Ukrainians can continue to, you know, hold the line, and B, that that assistance is getting to them.

So again, we recognize there's a lot more to do in terms of getting much needed aid to them but we're going to keep after it. As I mentioned, we've got a UDCG happening this week. And so that's going to continue to be a topic of discussion, as it always is.

Q: And I take it you don't want to preview the UDCG right now, right?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I won't get too far ahead of it. I think you can expect to see air defense will, you know, for all the obvious reasons, be a topic of discussion, as well as our ongoing efforts to work with our international allies and partners on enhancing the defense industrial bases of each of our countries to ensure that, you know, not only can we meet Ukraine's needs but also ensure that we're replenishing our own stocks and our -- and to ensure that we can maintain our readiness.

Q: So that -- I'm sorry, that -- that last part, UDCG has really grown from its original intent with that -- with the addition of the emphasis on the industrial base?

GEN. RYDER: I wouldn't say that's technically correct, Jim. You know, Dr. LaPlante has been working with the national armaments directors for a very long time. It is a subsidiary of the UDCG. It's just one of those things that continues to be, you know, front and center in terms of importance. And so this UDCG will be an opportunity to talk about those things.

And I think, you know, part and parcel of that will be the NATO DefMins, where we talk about the upcoming 75th anniversary of NATO and the summit and opportunities for NATO partners to work together on areas like the defense industrial base as well.

Q: Thank you, General. Did the idea of notify the Pentagon in advance of this rescue operation, and did you have the chance to raise the issue of civilians with them before the operation?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so again, you know, we have said that we're going to be supportive of their hostage recovery efforts, you know? And the -- and -- and whether it's recovery or rescue, I'm just not going to be able to get into the details of their operation. That's really for them to answer.

Q: So you didn't know or --

GEN. RYDER: Again, I just don't have any further information.

Q: And also, if you can clarify the JLOTS -- I believe it's resumed -- the work resumed on Saturday with the JLOTS?

GEN. RYDER: On 8 June.

Q: Which is Saturday, right? So was it before or after the operation?

GEN. RYDER: The JLOTS was anchored on the 7th of June. Aid was delivered on the 8th of June. There was no association whatsoever with the IDF rescue operation. I don't think I can be any more clear than that. 

Q: One more question. You always say one death is too much, right, any casualty is too much. So this number, 200-plus of --

GEN. RYDER: According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, yeah.

Q: Even if it’s less, like, there were -- there were casualties. We -- we all saw the reports, the pictures from (inaudible). So is this consistent with what we've been hearing over the past few month from you, from Secretary Austin, about the urgency for Israel to avoid harming civilians?

GEN. RYDER: So a couple of things. One, again, as I mentioned -- and you're right, every civilian death is tragic, which is -- makes one wonder why Hamas doesn't just release the hostages, put an end to this, instead of using humans as shields and putting them in harm's way. So they could end this today. You know, there would be no reason for the IDF to conduct raids to rescue hostages if they weren't being held hostage. So ball's in Hamas' court.

Next question? Yes?

Q: Are U.S. drones still flying over Gaza to help with hostage rescue efforts?

GEN. RYDER: We do continue to provide support in that regard, but again, I'm not going to be able to go into any more specifics than that.

Q: And then separately, in the joint U.S.-UK Houthi strike from two Thursdays ago, any casualties from that?

GEN. RYDER: Nothing that I have to provide.

Okay, take a couple more. Tony?

Q: Speaking of innocent civilian life -- a death is a tragedy, there's been a number of stories about the dropping of small diameter bombs on Rafah targets killing a number of civilians. As part of the Pentagon's responsibility to studying civilian death mitigation, it -- are those reports being reviewed, those instances where small diameter bombs allegedly are being used?

GEN. RYDER: So let's kind of take that in two parts. So one, you know, the department takes very seriously its responsibilities in terms of our own conduct when it comes to conducting operations and mitigating civilian harm.

And as you know, you know, we have published a DOD instruction on this, we have put -- put together a list of requirements in terms of what the DOD will do, in terms of tracking and managing and mitigating and training, and all of that, we'll continue to move forward on.

GEN. RYDER: Now, what you're asking is essentially Israel's use of -- U.S.-provided munitions when it comes to civilian casualties. And again, as I've said, we've communicated on a very regular basis, both publicly and privately, the need for Israel to conduct its operations taking into account civilian harm mitigation, the importance of precision, et cetera.

And when it comes to the specific types of munitions that they use, I'll refer you to the Israelis to talk about their operations. You know Tony, it -- it's, you know, not necessarily about the munition, it's how you use the munition and how you plan and conduct your operations. And we're going to continue to encourage and expect the Israelis to operate in a way that takes civilian safety into account.

Q: Okay, fair enough. Last week, the D-Day commemorations -- does the Congress -- does the DOD pay for every member of Congress and their families when they go over there and -- their hotel and board? You may not know that now but can you find that out, whether all these members who went over there and did all sorts of stuff, whether the tax -- whether the Pentagon paid for their transportation, their room, board, and their family members? I'd like to get a sense of that, at least a -- who paid for it?

GEN. RYDER: -- I'll have to take that question.

Q: No, obviously -- yeah, but -- and roughly how many members went over there that DOD provided CODEL transport for? Again, this is not something you can get in a day but I'd be curious, in terms of the taxpayer equities.



Q: Thank you, General. Was the marshaling area and the road that humanitarian trucks use to deliver aid from the pier used by the Israeli military in this operation?

GEN. RYDER: Not to my knowledge.

Q: No -- and no aid truck was used in the operation?


Q: On the number of civilian deaths during that operation, the numbers of the Health Ministry in Gaza have been acknowledged as being accurate by several U.S. government officials, international organizations. Are you saying the number of more than 270 civilians is not accurate?

GEN. RYDER: I'm telling you that I've seen two different numbers. Again, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health says one thing; the Israelis say another. You must have information that I don't, because I've seen nothing that corroborates the numbers. Again, something that we'll look into, but I don't have anything to provide.

Q: And did this operation that you just answered the question about the U.S.-provided weapons and harm -- civilian harm mitigation, and you talked about the expectations from the Israelis. Did this operation, in terms of protecting civilians, meet your expectations?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to get into editorializing. All I can say is, you know --

Q: Like, every time I ask you a question that you don't like, you say, "No, I'm not -- " I'm asking you a question.

GEN. RYDER: You're asking me -- yeah.

Q: I'm not -- it's not editorial. I'm not writing a piece. I'm asking you, did this operation meet your expectations? You have standards, and I'm asking a simple question, because you're making the assessment.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I think we've been very clear what our expectation is and what we would want to see from Israel in terms of conducting their operations, which is putting civilians -- taking them off the battlespace out of harm's way and doing everything they can to protect civilians.

Q: So this -- this operation meet those expectation? Are you going to look into it in more details to see if -- if you don't have that assessment now?

GEN. RYDER: I think I answered the question as best I can.

Jared, you had a question?

Q: Just a small point of clarification. I believe you've said, if I heard correctly, that no U.S. forces supporting the Gaza pier operation were involved in the Israeli hostage rescue.

GEN. RYDER: That's correct.

Q: Does that include U.S. warships and -- and other vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean?

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

GEN. RYDER: All right, take one more. Haley.

Q: This is a quick one. The pier -- I know you said high sea states has made it not possible to deliver -- or to use the pier yesterday and today. Was there any -- I know officials have said they'd look into maybe disconnecting it or something if weather was permitting. Has there been anything like that (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: No, no.

Q: So still all --

GEN. RYDER: Still -- still anchored, still in place, just no aid going across the causeway.

GEN. RYDER: And last question.

Q: Just one follow-up: On -- on the civilians, you said that you were obviously -- on the difference in the numbers, that you were obviously going to look into that. Does that mean the U.S. is doing some sort of a review?

GEN. RYDER: No, we're not doing an investigation. Again, you know, we're always consulting with our Israeli partners. Really, at the end of the day, it's an Israeli operation. They're a professional military force. If there are any issues, they will investigate. I -- I'm not saying that they have announced that. You -- it's for them to talk to and for you to ask them. But again, as -- as always, you know, we're going to look into these things and we're going to continue to communicate with the Israelis publicly and privately about the importance of taking civilian safety into account.

Thank you very much, everybody.

GEN. RYDER: Oh and May 9th was the last airdrop, so there you go.