Political leaders in the U.S. have vowed to support Israel after the Iran-backed Hamas militant group launched a bloody,. The unprecedented Hamas assault has left more than 700 people dead in Israel, with more than 2,000 others injured. Many Israelis, both civilians and security forces, have reportedly been taken hostage.
The multi-front attack began with a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and then expanded as the Palestinian gunmen invaded southern Israel by land, sea and even on paragliders. In a televised address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was "at war" and swore the Palestinian militants would "pay an unprecedented price."
Almost 500 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, Palestinian health officials said Monday.
President Biden called Netanyahu Saturday morning and the Israeli president's office said Mr. Biden had "emphasized that the U.S. stands alongside Israel" and "fully supports" the country's right to self-defense.
Netanyahu characterized Biden's support as "unreserved."
The White House told CBS News Mr. Biden, who, was being briefed on the situation regularly as officials "remain in close contact with Israeli partners."
In a statement, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the U.S. "unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks" and "stands firmly with the Government and people of Israel." Watson said U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan haD communicated with his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared a similar statement, noting that the U.S. "condemns the appalling attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israel, including civilians and civilian communities."
"There is never any justification for terrorism," said Blinken.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was "closely monitoring developments" in Israel.
"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. "Over the coming days the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism."
Congressional leaders react
Republican and Democratic leaders also issued statements about the situation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called the attacks "absolutely horrific" in a statement shared on social media.
"The U.S. stands with Israel in its unwavering right to defend itself. I stand ready to ensure Israel has the support to do so," Schumer said.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, the speaker pro tempore and temporary leader of congressional Republicans after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, was ousted from the speakership earlier this week, called Israel the U.S.' "most sacred ally" on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"America stands with Israel," McHenry said. "The Israeli people have our unwavering support and the Israeli government has every right to defend its citizens against this act of war."
Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that he condemned "the brazen and ongoing terrorist attack."
"I mourn those lost and my heart goes out to their families. May their memory be for a blessing," Cardin said. "Just as the United States stood by Israel after it was attacked exactly 50 years ago on Yom Kippur, today we stand by Israel in this time of crisis. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am committed to ensuring that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and its citizens, today and every day."
The chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, called the attack "unprovoked and despicable" in a statement.
"Today, Hamas terrorists launched an unprovoked and despicable attack on Israeli civilians," he said. "The United States must stand firmly beside our friend and partner Israel as it defends its security and its citizens," and he said the committee would "continue to monitor the situation closely."
GOP hopefuls on the Hamas attack
Several candidates campaigning for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination also condemned the attack.
Former President Donald Trump, who has not appeared at debates but is leading the polls, issued a statement calling the attacks "a disgrace" and criticizing Mr. Biden's handling of the Middle East.
"These Hamas attacks are a disgrace and Israel has every right to defend itself with overwhelming force," Trump said. "Sadly, American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks, which many reports are saying came from the Biden Administration. We brought so much peace to the Middle East through the Abraham Accords, only to see Biden whittle it away at a far more rapid pace than anyone possible. Here we go again."
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who criticized fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy for comments he had made suggesting the U.S. cut funding to Israel during the first Republican presidential debate, issued a statement calling Hamas "a bloodthirsty terrorist organization... determined to kill as many innocent lives as possible."
"Hamas has declared war on Israel on the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret and the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War," Haley said. "The reports out of Israel are horrific with a stunning number of dead and wounded and should be universally condemned. Israel has every right to defend its citizens from terror. We must always stand with Israel and against this Iranian regime."
Ramaswamy's team said in a statement that they were "appalled by the Hamas attack" and "stand with Israel."
On X, Florida governor Ron DeSantis called on the U.S. to "stand with Israel."
"The dastardly terrorist attacks perpetrated against innocent Israeli civilians by Iran-backed terror group Hamas deserve a swift and lethal response," DeSantis wrote. "Israel not only has the right to defend itself against these attacks, it has a duty to respond with overwhelming force. I stand with Israel. America must stand with Israel."
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is also running for president, shared an article about the violence on X and called Israel the country's "most cherished ally."
"Every American should condemn the unprovoked and massive attack on Israel by terrorists in Hamas," Pence wrote.
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