US President Joe Biden on Tuesday disclosed unprecedented and explicit details of the “sheer evil” inflicted by Hamas against Israel in an emotional speech during which he promised to ensure that the Jewish state would have what it needs to respond to the shocking weekend onslaught.
“There are moments in this life — I mean this literally — when a pure unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world,” he said in a hushed voice during a speech shown live on many American and Israeli television channels. “This is an act of sheer evil.”
Flanked in the White House by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken for his second address to the nation on the ongoing war launched by the Gaza-based terror group early Saturday, Biden detailed some of the scenes from the attack.
“Parents butchered, using their bodies to try to protect their children; stomach-turning reports of babies being killed; entire families slain; young people massacred while attending a musical festival… women raped, assaulted, paraded as trophies,” he recounted with horror.
“There are still so many families desperately waiting to hear the fate of their loved ones. Not knowing if they’re alive or dead or [being held] hostage. Infants in their mother’s arms, grandparents in wheelchairs, Holocaust survivors abducted and held hostage.”
“This is terrorism. But sadly, for the Jewish people, it’s not new,” Biden continued. “This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.”
“Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people,” he asserted.
“Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond — indeed has a duty to respond — to these vicious attacks,” the president said.
Biden said he had one word — “Don’t” — for any of Israel’s adversaries who might try to get involved, in a clear message to long-term foe Iran, which backs Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.
And the president stressed he was ready to move “additional assets” if needed to show Washington’s backing for its ally and bolster its presence in the tense region.
He said the US was “surging” additional military aid to Israel, such as ammunition and interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system. He pledged to ensure that Israel does not run out of equipment needed to protect its citizens and said the administration would ask Congress to take “urgent action” to fund Israel’s security needs upon returning to session in the coming days.
“This is not about party or politics. This is about the security of our world, the security of the United States of America,” Biden said.
.@VP and I sat down with our teams to receive a situation update on the terrorist attack in Israel and to direct next steps.
We connected with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss coordination to support Israel, deter hostile actors, and protect innocent people. pic.twitter.com/u4xOHMeMqw
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 10, 2023
“Our hearts may be broken but our resolve is clear,” said Biden, who compared Hamas’s actions to the Islamic State terror group.
“For 75 years, Israel has stood as the ultimate guarantor of security of Jewish people around the world so that the atrocities of the past could never happen again. And let there be no doubt. The United States has Israel’s back. We will make sure the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow as we always have. It’s as simple as that.
“These atrocities have been sickening. We’re with Israel. Let’s make no mistake.”
While he very carefully avoided voicing any criticism of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks — airstrikes in Gaza that have left hundreds dead, including civilians — Biden did appear to implore Jerusalem to uphold international law in its counteroffensive against Hamas.
Biden said he had spoken with Netanyahu about “how democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.”
“Terrorist purposely targets civilians, kill them. We uphold the laws of war,” he added.
The conflict has also created a hostage crisis for Washington, which Biden will have few options for resolving.
Hamas has held around 150 hostages since its ground incursion, among them children, elderly and young people. It has warned it would start killing hostages every time Israel strikes a civilian target in Gaza without warning.
Biden confirmed that at least 14 Americans were killed in the Hamas attacks and that a number had been taken hostage.
“As president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” Biden said.
“You can’t take a threat like that lightly,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN earlier. “You’ve got to take it seriously because of the barbarity that Hamas has already shown that they’re capable of.”
The United States had offered Israel intelligence and “hostage recovery expertise,” Kirby said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters traveling with him to Brussels that a small group of US special operations forces is also working with the Israelis to help with planning and intelligence.
The State Department, meanwhile, announced that Blinken would be visiting Israel to show “solidarity and support” on Thursday.
Biden addressed the nation shortly after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the third time since the war’s outbreak.
In a readout of his call with Biden, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told the US leader, “We’ve never seen such savagery in the history of the state” nor “since the Holocaust.”
“They took dozens of children, bound them up, burned them and executed them. They beheaded soldiers, they mowed down these youngsters who came to a nature festival, you know, put five jeeps around this depression in the soil and like Babyn Yar, they mowed them down, making sure that they killed everybody.”
“They’re even worse than ISIS and we need to treat them as such.”
The prime minister thanked Biden for his full backing and stressed that Israel’s military campaign would be lengthy.
An Egyptian official told The Times of Israel earlier Tuesday that Jerusalem has informed Cairo that it is readying for a months-long ground incursion into Gaza and is not interested in talk of de-escalation in the interim.
#WATCH: Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks with President Biden and describes the massacre by Hamas.
"Savagery that we haven't seen since the Holocaust… They took children, bound them up, burned and executed them. They beheaded soldiers. They mowed down these youngsters." pic.twitter.com/3CH0KwZ4kl
— Israel National News – Arutz Sheva (@ArutzSheva_En) October 10, 2023
The White House on Monday confirmed that it has already begun delivering critically needed munitions and military equipment to Israel, and the Pentagon was reviewing its inventories to see what else can be sent quickly to boost its ally in the war against Hamas.
The Ford carrier strike group arrived in the far Eastern Mediterranean, within range to provide a host of air support or long-range strike options for Israel if requested, but also to surge US military presence there to prevent the war from spilling over into a more dangerous regional conflict, the White House said.
The Pentagon has said that the US warplanes, destroyers and cruisers that sailed with the Ford will conduct maritime and air operations which could include intelligence collection, interdictions and long-range strikes.
Along with the Ford, the US was sending the cruiser USS Normandy and destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt. It is also augmenting a series of fighter jet squadrons in the region.
On behalf of the entire people of Israel, thank you @POTUS Joe Biden. You have shown once again what a great friend you are of Israel, its people, and the Jewish People as a whole. We are truly grateful. ????????????????
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) October 10, 2023
Biden’s response is being closely watched at home ahead of next year’s US presidential election where Republicans accuse him of being soft on Iran, Hamas’s sponsor.
The Biden administration has pointed to its handling of the last conflict between Israel and Gaza in 2021 as having played a crucial part in limiting the length and loss of life in a war that stretched over 11 days.
During the 2021 conflict, Biden limited his public commentary while pressing Netanyahu in private to end the conflict. His behind-the-scenes effort played out even as some of the president’s fellow Democrats pressured him to speak out against the Israelis as the death toll climbed in Gaza and as tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the aerial bombardment.
But the current conflict is less likely to end as quickly. Domestic and international pressure could mount on Biden to pressure Netanyahu to wind down operations to prevent the suffering of innocent Gazans.
Netanyahu said on Saturday that civilians in Gaza should leave areas near where Hamas is operating as the Israeli military planned to take defining action against the terror group.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters later Tuesday that US government officials have discussed details with Israel and Egyptian officials about where people in Gaza should go.
At least 1,000 Israelis — and some foreign nationals — were slaughtered by Hamas after its men stormed into southern Israel and opened fire at a music festival and in numerous border towns. Bodies are still being located and collected and the death toll is expected to rise.
The Health Ministry said that more than 2,800 people in Israel have been wounded. While many have been discharged, there were 535 injured people still being treated in hospitals around the country as of Tuesday afternoon, many of them in critical condition.
The Hamas-run health ministry said that 770 Palestinians have been killed and another 4,000 have been wounded in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces has said it has killed some 1,500 Palestinian terrorists who crossed into Israeli territory.