Lloyd Austin
Lloyd AustinREUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin discussed the impending Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip during an interview with ABC News.

"The first thing that everyone should know, and I think everybody does know, is that urban combat is extremely difficult. It's -- it goes at a slow pace," Austin said when asked what lessons he learned from the offensive he led against ISIS in Iraq would apply in Gaza.

"This may be a bit more difficult because of the underground network of tunnels that the -- that Hamas has constructed over time, and the fact that they have had a long time to prepare for a fight. So I think you'll see a fight that's characterized by a lot of IEDs, a lot of booby traps, and just a really grinding activity going forward," he explained.

"Now, one of the things we've learned is how to account for civilians in the battle space, and they are a part of the battle space, and we, in accordance with the law of war, we've got to do what's necessary to protect those civilians.

And as I’ve talked to Minister Gallant and others, I’ve encouraged them to conduct their operations in accordance with the law of war," Austin added.

Austin was also asked about the incident in which the USS Carney intercepted missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, possibly in the direction of Israel.

"When you have cruise missiles heading towards one of our DDGs, one of our destroyers, that vessel is going to do what it needs to do to protect itself. The same applies for the UAVs.

And I applaud the work of the crew of the Carney. They demonstrated what our very capable United States Navy can do and will do if challenged," he explained.

When asked if the US would take similar actions if Hezbollah or Iran were to fire missiles at Israel, he answered: "What we're focused on currently is making sure that we're providing the security assistance that Israel needs to defend itself. That's been our focus from the very beginning, and I will tell you that I am in contact with Minister Gallant nearly every day.

I spoke to him on October 7th, the same day that the attack occurred. He identified to me what his needs were at that point in time, and we immediately started flowing security assistance to them."