U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that “several Americans” have possibly been killed or taken hostage in the surprise attack launched Saturday by Islamist group Hamas on Israel.
Hamas launched its most serious attack on Israel since the 1970s with 5,000 rockets and gunmen attacks at daybreak Saturday. The first wave of rockets launched at around 6:30 a.m. from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The Israeli government issued a state of war alert as the attacks continued.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the country was “at war,” which the Israeli Security Cabinet subsequently affirmed when confirming the state of war. The attack killed at least 700 people in Israel, including 44 soldiers, a death toll not seen in decades.
“We have reports that several Americans may be among the dead. We are very actively working to verify those reports,” Blinken said on “Meet the Press.” “Similarly, we’ve seen reports about hostages and again, we’re very actively trying to verify them and nail that down.”
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer confirmed Americans are among those being held hostage in Gaza following the attack. The U.S. will prioritize the release of any American held hostage, Secretary Blinken said, but no reports have yet been verified. (RELATED: MSNBC Host, Palestinian Analyst Says Attacks On Israel Deserve ‘Context,’ Blame Israel)
Hamas’s military commander, Mohammad Deif, declared the commencement of the operation called “Al-Aqsa Storm,” calling on Palestinians to join the fight.
“If you have a gun, get it out. This is the time to use it — get out with trucks, cars, axes, today the best and most honorable history starts,” he said. Hamas, Deif added, “targeted the enemy positions, airports and military positions with 5,000 rockets.”
Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the deployment of U.S. Navy aircraft and missile destroyers to the eastern Mediterranean to “reinforce this deterrence posture if required,” according to a Sunday statement. The U.S. will also be providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions, the statement continued.