U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that the Pentagon will work to ensure that Israel “has what it needs” to defend itself, amid an outpouring of international condemnation of Hamas over the terror group’s surprise assault on the Jewish state.
The unequivocal American statement—the third U.S. comment within an hour—followed a multi-front Palestinian terrorist onslaught that left at least 250 Israelis dead and 1,500 wounded, and came as U.S. President Joe Biden was expected to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself remains unwavering, and I extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this abhorrent attack on civilians,” Austin said in an early morning statement.
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson “unequivocally” condemned the “unprovoked” attacks.
“We stand firmly with the government and people of Israel, and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks,” Watson wrote in a statement released on Saturday morning. “There is never any justification for terrorism.”
She noted that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had spoken to Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, adding that they will remain in close contact.
Earlier in the morning, acting U.S. Ambassador to Israel Stephanie L. Hallett also condemned the Hamas assault.
“Sickened by the images coming out of southern Israel of dead and wounded civilians at the hands of terrorists from Gaza,” she tweeted. “The United States stands with Israel.”
Condemnation of the attacks poured in from Europe as well, which is typically less supportive of Israel.
The head of the European Union’s executive commission, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted that the attack “is terrorism in its most despicable form.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself against such heinous attacks,” she said.
The British, French, German and Dutch leaders also condemned the attacks.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “shocked” by the attacks. “Israel has an absolute right to defend itself,” he tweeted.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the terrorist attacks “shock us deeply,” and that “Germany stands with Israel.”
French President Emmanuel Macron wrote that he “firmly” condemns the terror attacks and expressed his “full solidarity” with the Israeli victims, their families and loved ones.
“Appalling images from Israel,” wrote Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “The violence must stop; Israel has every right to defend itself.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that Israel has the right to defend itself from invasion by Hamas terrorists.
Kyiv “strongly condemns the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel, including rocket attacks against the civilian population in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” the country’s foreign ministry tweeted.
“We express our support for #Israel in its right to defend itself and its people,” the statement added.
The Czech Republic and Spain also strongly condemned the attacks. Netanyahu had been scheduled to travel to Prague on Sunday along with senior government ministers.