A US official confirmed Sunday that the United States could “confirm the deaths of several US citizens” in the Palestine group Hamas’s surprise land-sea-air attack on Israel. The National Security Council spokesperson provided no further details, such as the exact number of Americans killed or their identities. The official said the US government is in contact with Israeli authorities and continues to monitor the situation closely. He also extended the most profound condolences to the victims’ families.
The attack was a dramatic escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. It started with Hamas militants infiltrating Israel near the Gaza border, killing civilians and soldiers, before launching rockets into cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The rockets were followed by a massive Israeli air and ground response, leaving thousands of people injured. The Israeli military has called it a “Pearl Harbor moment.”
President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan discussed the situation on the telephone on Sunday, according to the Egyptian presidency. A presidential statement read that both leaders urged all parties to take steps to avoid further deterioration of the situation. In a show of support for Israel, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the US aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford was moving to the eastern Mediterranean and would be boosting fighter plane squadrons in the region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, making the rounds on TV talk shows on Sunday, said US officials were working to verify reports that several Americans had been killed and that others had been taken hostage. He did not give a figure for the number of Americans dead or missing, but he clarified that the number could rise as a full accounting was conducted. He noted that most, if not all, of those killed or missing were dual American-Israeli citizens.
He added that the US will continue to provide Israel with weapons as it fights back against Hamas. He urged the other members of the UN Security Council to condemn the heinous acts of violence committed against Israelis and Palestinians.
The attack triggered travel warnings from the US and other countries, and several airlines suspended flights to parts of Israel. The State Department urged US citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting Israel or the West Bank because of the “terrorism and civil unrest.”
Hamas spokesman Mousa Abu Marzouk said the militant group holds dozens of Israeli hostages, including soldiers. He added that the jihadists were trying to derail an emerging diplomatic deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. He also called on Israel to stop its counterattack against the Palestinians and to release their captives.
The United Nations Security Council opened a special session on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The US-led calls for condemnation of the Hamas assault, and a senior US diplomat told reporters that he expected other members to voice strong opposition to the heinous acts of violence on both sides.