Pentagon chief in Israel: ‘There is never any justification for terrorism’

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Defense Secretary Llyod Austin arrived in Israel Friday to demonstrate support nearly one week after the Hamas attacks, saying there is “never any justification for terrorism.”

The Pentagon chief reaffirmed the Biden administration’s strong support for Israel in his meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and the Israeli War Cabinet. 

“We’re with you, Mr. prime minister. And as [President Biden] said, we have your back, and it’s an awful week. You endured disgusting acts by this terrorist group,” Austin told Netanyahu.

“I was the guy that initially put the ISIS campaign together, and I know a lot about ISIS, and this is worse than what I saw with ISIS,” he added. 

In remarks to reporters on Friday, Austin invoked ISIS again and reiterated Biden’s message of support for Israel.

“There is never any justification for terrorism. And that’s especially true after this rampage by Hamas. And anyone who wants lasting peace and security for this region, must condemn and isolate Hamas,” Austin said at a press conference alongside Gallant. “Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people or their legitimate hopes for dignity, security and statehood and peace alongside Israel.

“The deliberate cruelty of Hamas vividly reminds me of ISIS: bloodthirsty, fanatical and hateful. And like ISIS, Hamas has nothing to offer but zealotry, bigotry and death,” Austin added. “The world has just witnessed a great evil. The deadliest attack on Israel in the history of the state of Israel and the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust.”

“So make no mistake: The United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself, and Israel has a right to protect its people,” he said. 

Austin’s arrival came as Israel issued a warning to 1 million residents of northern Gaza to evacuate within the next 24 hours ahead of possible ground operations.

More than 1,300 Israelis and more than 1,500 Palestinians have died since Hamas first attacked early Saturday. 

Austin’s trip follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s stop in Israel on Thursday.

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