Blinken Lands in Israel to Pledge Support After Leaders Vow to ‘Wipe Out’ Hamas in Escalating War

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Israeli soldiers mourn at a funeral on Oct. 12, 2023.(Amir Levy/Getty Images via JTA.org)

(JTA) — On a visit to Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged American support for the country as it ramps up its war on Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

Israel is reportedly preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza, its first in nearly a decade, five days after hundreds of Hamas terrorists stormed Israeli towns and killed more than 1,300 people, wounding thousands and taking more than 100 captive. Israel has formed an emergency unity government to carry out the war, which will be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Gallant’s predecessor, Benny Gantz.

In a joint press conference on Wednesday evening, the men said their goal would be to destroy Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and has launched attacks on Israel for decades.

“We’ve moved to attack,” Gallant said. “I say now to everyone: We will wipe out this thing called Hamas. We will wipe it off the earth. This thing won’t continue to exist.”

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, which began following Hamas’ attack, have killed 1,200 and wounded thousands, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. Gaza terror groups have also continued to shoot rockets at cities across Israel.

Blinken landed in Israel on Thursday and reiterated the Biden administration’s messages of support for Israel. The United States is providing military aid to Israel, and Blinken will meet later in the day with families of American citizens who were captured by Hamas. At least 22 U.S. citizens were killed in Saturday’s invasion. “I also come here as a Jew,” Blinken said in public remarks.

“No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens, or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place,” he. “Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.”

The unity government in Israel and the country’s war footing — more than 300,000 people have reported for reserve duty — are signals that the country is preparing for a prolonged war. Israel’s last ground invasion of Gaza, in 2014, was part of a military operation that lasted 50 days, and in which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed.

“The people of Israel are united and now its leadership is also united,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday night, also hailing the “unprecedented international support” Israel has received. “We have put every other consideration to the side as our country’s fate hangs in the balance. We’ll work together, shoulder to shoulder, for the citizens of Israel, for the state of Israel.”

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