“We now know that American citizens are among those being held by Hamas,” Biden said. “I’ve directed my team to share intelligence and deploy additional experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery recovery efforts. Because as president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world.”
Biden delivered remarks at the White House, which was lit up in blue and white on Monday evening in a show of support for Israel after Hamas launched a surprise air, sea and land incursion over the weekend.
Israel since declared a state of alert for war and has been sending retaliatory airstrikes to Gaza. The number of people killed on both sides is mounting.
“There are moments in this life, I mean this literally, when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world,” Biden said as he spoke in the White House State Dining Room flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.”
“The bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas, a group who stated purpose for being is to kill Jews,” he continued. “This was an act of sheer evil. More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered, not just killed, slaughtered in Israel. Among them, at least 14 American citizens killed.”
Ahead of his remarks, Biden and Harris met with their national security teams to get an update on the situation and give direction on “next steps.” They also spoke with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden, who shared a photo of the meeting on social media, said the discussion with Netanyahu focused on “coordination to support Israel, deter hostile actors, and protect innocent people.”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier Tuesday before Biden’s confirmation, was asked if the U.S. would be willing to make a deal for any Americans who may be being held by Hamas. Kirby only said he “didn’t want to get too far ahead of where we are.”
“Clearly, the safety and security of Americans are a top priority for President Biden, we’ve seen that in the past,” Kirby said. “We’ll continue to work on this hard and if there are Americans that are being held hostage we’ll do everything possible to get them home to their families where they belong.”
The administration is boosting munitions to Israel, and the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier was sent toward Israel — a move a senior U.S. defense official said was intended to be a deterrent to Iran and Hezbollah.
Iran has denied involvement in the Hamas attacks on Israel, and the U.S. and Israel have also said they don’t have hard evidence linking Iran to the incursion.
Kirby on GMA was pressed about the threat of a second front opening up in the conflict if Hezbollah — also designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and other nations — were to engage.
“It remains unclear. Obviously, we are concerned about the possibility that now a northern front could be opened up if Hezbollah decides to get engaged,” Kirby said. “Now, there’s been some exchange of rocket fire, George, but no signs that they’re all in as it as it were. So, we’re watching this very, very closely.”