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US to coordinate with Israel to secure release of hostages from "Hamas' clutches": Lloyd Austin

Tel Aviv [Israel]: US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said that the US will continue to coordinate with Israel to help secure the release of hostages from the clutches of Hamas, including American citizens.

Further stating that there is no justification for terrorism, Austin said, "Now, this is no time for neutrality, for false equivalence or for excuses for the inexcusable."

"We will continue to coordinate closely with Israel to help secure the release of innocent men, women and children in the clutches of Hamas, including American citizens," the US Defence Secretary said during a press conference with the Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday.

Reaffirming US support in the first week of their war against the terror Hamas group, Austin said: "I extend my deepest condolences to the Israeli people, for those wounded and killed in this war by Hamas. I am also here in solidarity with all the families still living the waking nightmare of not knowing the fate of their loved ones."

Austin, the second high-level US official sent by President Joe Biden to visit Israel in two days amid the Israel-Hamas war, Austin said: "In times like these, sometimes the best thing that a friend can do is just to show up and to get to work. Now, this is no time for neutrality, for false equivalence or for excuses for the inexcusable. There is never any justification for terrorism, and that's especially true after this rampage by Hamas anyone who wants lasting peace and security for this region must condemn Hamas..."

On arrival in Tel Aviv, Austin said that US support for Israel was ironclad.

According to a statement from the US Department of Defence, Austin's visit to Israel underscores the United States' unwavering commitment to support Israel following the recent deadly attacks by Hamas terrorists.

The US Defence Secretary said Israel is a small country, a place where everybody knows everybody. "And in times of trial, the intimacy of your society deepens the intimacy of your grief. But that's not a weakness," he said.

Austin's visit to Israel comes as the Israel-Hamas conflict entered the seventh day, the Israel Defence Forces called for an immediate evacuation of Gaza. In a statement, the IDF said that all civilians of Gaza City must move from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza.

The IDF asked civilians to distance themselves from Hamas terrorists who are using them as human shields. The IDF said they will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.
Hamas has dismissed Israel's orders for Palestinians to evacuate the northern half of the Gaza Strip and asked the residents to stay put, the Times of Israel said.

"The US will make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself. Israel has a right to protect its people... Democracies like ours are stronger and more secure when we uphold the laws of war. Terrorists like Hamas deliberately target civilians. But democracies do not. This is a time for resolve, not revenge. For purpose, not panic. Security, not surrender..." the US Defence Secretary said.

He said, "I planned the war with ISIS, this is worse" Austin on Friday also held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PM Netanyahu said "I'm very happy to see you today. I'm very appreciative of the strong stance of the President, you, Secretary Blinken, the American people and the American government.

He said: "Hamas is ISIS, and I think what you said and in many ways the President has said, in many ways, Hamas is worse than ISIS."

"Just as the entire civilized world united to fight ISIS, the united civilized world has to unite to help us fight Hamas. I know that you stand with us and I appreciate it mightily," Netanyahu added.

Earlier in the day, Israeli Defence Forces spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that the death toll from the Hamas terror attacks on Israel has jumped to 1,300 and more than 3000 have been injured.

He also touched on the ongoing efforts to collect the bodies and bring them to Tel Aviv for identification before handing them over to their loved ones. Calling it a "tedious and detailed process", he noted that Israel has never in history faced such a situation.

"Unfortunately the number of Israeli casualties has risen to 1,300 Israeli civilians and soldiers and more than 3000 wounded. There is a massive national effort involving almost all of the security organisations and many of the ministries of the Israeli state, which is focused on taking the bodies from the same communities that we spoke about yesterday, like for instance ... and other communities and the entire southern area, collecting the bodies, bringing them to a centre in Tel Aviv, identifying them and then making sure they are next to their kin. Their loved ones are able to take them and to provide them with a final and respectable burial that's ongoing," Lt. Col. Conricus said. (ANI)

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