US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told several US news outlets Sunday that the administration had information about a yet-unknown number of Americans killed or missing in Saturday’s unprecedented Hamas assault on southern Israel, which has resulted in over 600 people confirmed dead, over 2,100 injured and over 100 abducted into the Gaza Strip.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Blinken said: “We have reports that several Americans were killed. We are working overtime to verify that. There are reports of missing Americans.”
Speaking later to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the US top diplomat said that “we have reports” that several Americans are among the dead and kidnapped, but would not confirm. He added: “We are very actively working to verify those reports.”
Blinken said that “any American anywhere who is being detained or held hostage — that is going to be a priority for this government, for this administration, and for me, but I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. We have reports, and we have to verify them.”
Earlier in the day, the US Embassy had refused to provide details about dead or missing citizens.
Meanwhile Sunday, the White House announced that US President Joe Biden had ordered “additional support” to Israel “in the face of this unprecedented terrorist assault by Hamas.”
The statement did not provide any further details on the support. It did note that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had been briefed on the situation and “will remain in close contact with our Israeli partners.”
During his media blitz hours earlier, Blinken told CNN that the United States could announce new military support for Israel on Sunday.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) October 8, 2023
“We’re looking at specific additional requests that the Israelis have made. I think you’re likely to hear more about that later today,” Blinken said. “President Biden’s direction was to make sure that we’re providing Israel everything it needs in this moment to deal with the attacks from Hamas.”
Commenting in general on the attack, Blinken said in another interview with ABC that “this is a massive terrorist attack that is gunning down Israeli civilians in their towns, in their homes, and as we’ve seen so graphically, literally dragging people across the border with Gaza.
“So, you can imagine the impact this is having throughout Israel. And the world should be revolted at what it has seen.”
#BREAKING: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview says "several Americans" may be among the dead and hostages in Israel terror attacks.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) October 8, 2023
Biden himself publicly backed Israel’s right to self-defense on Saturday, warning other parties in the region against joining the attack against the Jewish state.
“Today the people of Israel are under attack orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world and to terrorists everywhere, the United States stands with Israel,” Biden said in a video statement delivered from the White House.
“We will not ever fail to have their back, we’ll make sure that they’ll have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves,” Biden said while flanked by Blinken.
“The world has seen appalling images of thousands of rockets in a space of hours raining down on Israeli cities… Hamas terrorists crossing into Israel, killing not only Israeli soldiers but Israeli civilians in the streets, in their homes, innocent people murdered, wounded, entire families taken hostage by Hamas, just days after Israel marked the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. It’s unconscionable,” Biden said. “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop. There’s never justification for terrorist attacks and my administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
“This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching,” he said.
Blinken spoke later Saturday to Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who is also the foreign minister, to condemn the “appalling terrorist attacks on Israel,” and reiterate “Israel’s right to self-defense,” his office said.
Blinken called for “coordinated efforts to achieve an immediate halt to the violent attacks by Hamas terrorists and other militants.”
He also spoke to Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, who is also the deputy prime minister, “to coordinate continued efforts to bring an immediate halt to the horrific and ongoing terrorist attacks on Israel.”
Blinken earlier spoke to a host of Mideast officials including Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attacks and express support for Israel.
He also “discussed the unprecedented scale and brutality of the Hamas attacks on Israeli territory” with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, his office said.
Luke Tress contributed to this report.