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Biden pledges G7 response, U.S. support for Israel after Iran attacks

Published 13/04/2024, 20:44
© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Saturday condemned Iranian attacks on military facilities in Israel, pledged a coordinated G7 diplomatic response and said the United States had helped Israel take down "nearly all" of the attacking drones and missiles.

Biden, who cut short a trip to Delaware and returned to Washington earlier on Saturday to meet with advisers about the attack, said U.S. forces and facilities had not been hit.

The president said he reiterated the ironclad U.S. support for Israel's security in a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he has had strained relations over Israel's handling of the war in Gaza.

"I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks – sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

"Tomorrow, I will convene my fellow G7 leaders to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran's brazen attack," he said.

Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict,

Tehran had vowed to retaliate for Israel's attack on Iran's embassy compound last week in Damascus that killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' overseas Quds Force and six other officers.

Biden said he had directed the U.S. military to move aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week.

"Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles," he said.

Biden said his team would coordinate with counterparts across the region and stay in close touch with Israel's leaders.

"And while we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today, we will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people," he said.

Biden met with officials in the White House Situation Room, a crisis management center deep within the West Wing, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, Director of National Intelligence Avril Hines, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other officials, the White House said.

Earlier on Saturday, Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss "urgent regional threats," the Pentagon said, and reiterated full American support for Israel against attacks by Iran and its proxies.

Sullivan relayed a similar message of U.S. support to his own Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, he said in a post on X.

On Friday, Biden warned Iran against retaliation even while predicting the attack may be imminent. "We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed," he said.

© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

Leading lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties expressed support for Israel against an Iranian attack.

The U.S. House of Representatives will make a change in its schedule to consider legislation that supports Israel and holds Iran accountable, Republican House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said in a statement.

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