US President Joe Biden has condemned militant group Hamas for “sheer evil” for its multipronged attack on Israel that has killed hundreds of civilians, including at least 14 Americans.
His comments came as the US State Department said secretary of state Antony Blinken will travel to Israel this week to show US support after the Hamas attacks.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Mr Blinken would travel in coming days to deliver the message of solidarity. He said Mr Blinken will also “talk about what additional resources we can give them”.
Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone earlier on Tuesday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation on the ground.
Mr Biden spoke of the actions he and other allies have taken to support Israel in the aftermath of the attack and expressed his horror about “sickening” reports of torture inflicted by militants on innocent civilians.
“Our hearts may be broken but our resolve is clear,” Mr Biden said.
He added: “Let there be no doubt. The United States has Israel’s back. We’ll make sure the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow as we always have.
“There’s no justification for terrorism. There’s no excuse.
“Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Their stated purpose is the annihilation of the state of Israel and the murder of Jewish people.
“They use Palestinian civilians as human shields.”
He renewed his warnings to adversaries who might want to exploit the turmoil. “Let me say again to any country, any organisation, anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation,” Mr Biden said, “I have one word: Don’t.”
Mr Biden, in his public remarks and statements since Hamas launched its attacks, has repeatedly emphasized his shock over the breadth and brutality of the Hamas assault — a blitz by land, sea and air that surprised Israeli and US intelligence and that has killed hundreds Israelis and left even more wounded.
The death toll was expected to grow as Israel pummelled Gaza with airstrikes and sent tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing into UN shelters.
Mr Biden said he has directed his team to share intelligence and military experts to consult and advise Israelis. He also confirmed that the US believes that Americans are among dozens of hostages taken by Hamas.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US does not know the precise number of American hostages that were taken.
Mr Sullivan said the US, at the moment, has no plans of putting US troops on the ground.
“As president I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” Mr Biden said.
Mr Sullivan said US intelligence did not pick up signs of the Hamas attack.
“We did not see anything that suggested an attack of this type was going to unfold any more than the Israelis did,” Mr Sullivan told reporters.
As other White House officials have done in recent days, Mr Sullivan also reiterated that the US government has also not seen any direct linkage between Iran and the Hamas attack over the weekend.
“While Iran plays this broad role — sustained, deep and dark role — in providing all this support and capabilities to Hamas, in terms of this particular, gruesome attack on October 7, we don’t currently have that information,” Mr Sullivan said.
The White House on Monday confirmed that it has already begun delivering critically needed munitions and military equipment to Israel, and the Pentagon was reviewing its inventories to see what else can be sent quickly to boost its ally in the war against Hamas.