This evening (Thursday) Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant hosted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv. The Minister and Secretary delivered brief remarks to the press, after which they held a one-on-one meeting.
Minister Gallant told Blinken: “Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming. Thank you for being here in the middle of the war - a just war. [A war] for the future of the Jewish people and the future of Israel. We appreciate very much your personal commitment to this just war, and we are going to fight Hamas till we prevail no matter how long it takes. It’s a just war, it’s a war to defeat Hamas - the ISIS of Gaza, and it’s a war to bring the hostages back home - as long as it takes. Thank you.”
Earlier, Secretary Blinken met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Herzog said during their meeting: "Once again, unfortunately as we are meeting now, there are casualties in a serious terror attack at the entrance to Jerusalem our capital. Two terrorists have attacked innocent civilians waiting to be picked up to go about their day, to go to work."
"We have casualties and loss of life and I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and of course to pray for the swift recovery of the wounded.
"This is another example of the situation we’re in, the endless war that we are fighting against terror organisations, especially Hamas, in these very complicated and challenging times," he stressed.
Thanking Blinken for his support, Herzog continued, "We are working, praying for and demanding the immediate release of all hostages, and I thank the United States of America for the immense work it is devoting to the release of the hostages."
"There are still around 150 hostages who are in Hamas hands in Gaza. I would like to raise the plight of the Bibas family, the two young children, ten-month-old baby, four-year-old boy, and of course their parents. Their whereabouts are unknown to us and we are demanding their immediate release. It should be obvious that little toddlers will be released with their mother and hopefully with a father as soon as possible," Herzog said.
Blinken responded, "This is my fourth visit Israel since October 7. And, as you said, we're reminded yet again by the events in Jerusalem today of the threat from terrorism that Israel and Israelis face every single day. Like you, my heart goes out to the victims of this attack. ... We’re thinking of them, we’re thinking of their families, their loved ones, and we mourn their loss just as we mourn the loss of any innocent life."
"From day one, we have been focused on trying to secure the release of hostages from Gaza, from Hamas. And we have seen over the last week the very positive developments of hostages coming home and being reunited with their families, and that should continue today. It's also enabled the increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately. So this process is producing results. It's important and we hope that it can continue.
"At the same time I look forward to detailed conversations with the Government of Israel about the way ahead in Gaza. The United States firmly supports Israel and its right to defend itself and to try to ensure that October 7 never happens again."
He added, "You noted the passing of Henry Kissinger. Kissinger really set the standard for everyone who followed in in this job. I was very privileged to get his counsel many times including as recently as about a month ago. He was extraordinarily generous with his wisdom and his advice. Few people were better students of history. Even fewer people did more to shape history than Henry Kissinger."
The White House stated that in his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Blinken stressed that the Biden Administration wants Israel to take further precautions to protect civilians before expanding its military operation to southern Gaza when the current ceasefire ends.
Netanyahu said that he told Blinken: "We swore, and I swore, to eliminate Hamas. Nothing will stop us."