“The Prime Minister thanked the US President for his unreserved support and made it clear that a prolonged and powerful campaign would be required in which Israel would win,” according to a post from Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu declared early Saturday that the U.S. ally was “at war” as sirens rang out in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the Israel Defense Forces responded by striking Hamas targets in neighboring Gaza.
More than 2,200 rockets were fired into Israel Saturday morning, said IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. Hagari said the Hamas militants infiltrated from land, sea and air.
Israel says at least 100 people have died and hundreds have been wounded, making the attack the most fatal the country has seen in years. In the Israeli strikes, the Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 198 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed and at least 1,610 wounded.
Biden said he also talked with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday and has directed his team to remain in contact with leaders throughout the region. He also warned against any bad actors who might seek to take advantage of the crisis, noting that the “world is watching.”
“It’s also a terrible tragedy on a human level. It’s hurting innocent people,” Biden said. “Seeing the lives being broken by this, families torn apart, it’s heartbreaking.”
Biden’s response bolstered the chorus of U.S. officials who have condemned the surprise attack and incursion by Hamas on Israel’s southern region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. stands “in solidarity with the government and people of Israel.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a call Saturday with U.S. Central Command and senior leaders, including New Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. CQ Brown, according to a DOD official. In a statement, he said the U.S.’s commitment to “Israel’s right to defend itself remains unwavering,” and that his department would work to ensure the country has what it needs to “defend itself.”
In 2021, Israel and Hamas engaged in an 11-day conflict that killed at least 260 Palestinians and at least a dozen Israelis. The Biden administration worked behind the scenes to shorten that fight, raising some questions as to whether Israel had been able to do enough damage to Hamas’ military capabilities.
The latest attacks could politically strengthen Netanyahu and his far-right government as they’ve been facing months of popular protests over their efforts to overhaul Israel’s judiciary. Many critics of that effort believe it will badly damage Israel’s democracy.
The fighting also could rattle a broader peace initiative being pursued by the United States. That effort would see Israel and Saudi Arabia normalize diplomatic relations, among other steps that Washington hopes will include helping pave the way for a Palestinian state.
The invasion revived memories of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war practically 50 years to the day, which culminated in the Camp David Accords. Saturday marked the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, the completion of the annual cycle of reading Torah and the start of a new cycle. It is one of the most joyous days of the Jewish year.
U.S. politicians were quick to condemn the attacks, with many pinning the ultimate blame on Iran. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell connected Saturday’s conflict to the war in Ukraine, noting the need for the U.S. and its allies to stand in solidarity ”as a fellow democracy defends its sovereignty.”
”The terrorists responsible for this ongoing war against Israel were trained and equipped by Iran, the same terror state providing lethal drones to Russia to attack Ukraine. There must be consequences for those who conduct or support such terror,” McConnell said in a statement.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) posted on social media: ”Our strongest ally in the Middle East is under attack. Make no mistake: Israeli civilians are being slaughtered by Hamas terrorists. We condemn these attacks, stand with our dear ally, Israel, and support its right to defend itself in this war.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement: ”Iran-controlled Hamas terrorists launched a literal war against Israel last night. Our Israeli allies will now do what they must to defend themselves and I stand with them as they confront this violence and these atrocities.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said: ”Israelis are dying today at the hands of Iran-backed terrorists. Every American ally & partner must swiftly condemn this invasion & acts of war by Hamas terrorists & the Iranian regime which supports their murderous attacks.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham offered rare bipartisan praise for the administration, but cautioned the White House on its path ahead: “I appreciate President Biden’s strong statement in support of Israel from this barbaric attack by Hamas. There will be pressure to limit Israeli operations, as in the past, but I expect Congress and the Biden Administration to stay strong and not give in to such pressure.”
Volker Türk, the U.N. human rights chief, said he was “shocked and appalled” by the attack and reports of Hamas’ hostage taking of Israeli citizens, and called for an immediate halt to the violence.
European leaders condemned the attack and proclaimed Israel’s right to defend itself.
French President Emanuel Macron condemned the attacks and expressed “solidarité” with Israeli victims and their families.
“It is terrorism in its most despicable form,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “Israel has the right to defend itself against such heinous attacks.”
Nahal Toosi, Lara Seligman and David Cohen contributed to this report.