Hamas “need to be eliminated—literally eliminated,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said in a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.
The governor confirmed that two New Jersey natives are dead and one is missing after Hamas brutally attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,300 Israelis, wounding hundreds and taking captive as many as 150 civilians to the Gaza Strip.
The Garden State is currently under alert, although there are no specific threats, the governor said. Hamas has called on Friday for a global day of jihad. Murphy said he has been in contact with Israeli officials in the New York-New Jersey area, as well as the FBI.
“We want to make sure that all those places of worship, Federations, daycare centers, schools, etcetera have the protection that they deserve at this time of heightened concern and, frankly, heightened stress and sorrow and anger and all that goes with that,” Murphy said.
“This is a time where you hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said.
The state is increasing police patrols, and it is monitoring “cyberspace, obviously with a particular eye toward soft targets,” the governor said.
The Jewish population of New Jersey, which is about the size of Israel geographically, is about 545,450, or 7.8% of the U.S. Jewish population.
Itay Glisko, an IDF soldier from Fair Lawn, N.J., was killed when Hamas attacked his army base. Laor Abrahamov, a DJ from Hopewell, N.J., was one of 240 people whom Hamas murdered at the Nova Music Festival. The U.S. State Department has confirmed that 27 Americans were killed in the Hamas terrorist attacks.
Edan Alexander, of Tenafly, N.J., serves in the IDF’s Golani Brigade and was positioned near the Gaza Strip at the time of the attacks. He has not been heard from since.
Murphy said he has spoken and exchanged text messages with Alexander’s parents. “Finding him safe and sound is of paramount importance,” he said.
The governor has visited Israel eight times and established personal connections throughout the country. Besides comforting communities and protecting them, he is working to bring back New Jersey natives who want to return to the State from Israel and to transport IDF reservists reporting to Israel for duty.
He has also spoken with leaders of New Jersey’s sizable Palestinian community, “imploring everybody to continue that spirit of tolerance and ability to live side by side,” the governor said.
Murphy ordered state flags flown at half-mast to honor all the victims of the attacks.
“We stand with the people of Israel like never before. People say that this is the equivalent of their 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, and I think there’s sadly every reason to suggest that’s exactly right,” Murphy said.
“In so many respects, my guess is it’s forever changed that country and its people,” he said. “The United States is its strongest ally, and we will stand strongly at their side for whatever it takes going forward.”