WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. citizens confirmed to have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war has risen to at least 22 with at least 17 unaccounted for, the State Department said Wednesday. That’s an increase in the death toll from 14 the day before.
U.S. citizens are among the estimated 150 hostages captured by Hamas militants during their shocking weekend assault on Israel, President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday. The war has already claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides.
The Role of Iran
The attack has raised questions about the role of Iran, the main sponsor of Hamas, and whether it was directly involved in the operation. But the U.S. has collected information that suggests senior Iranian government officials were caught off guard by the multipronged assault, according to a U.S. official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. That piece of intelligence has informed White House officials publicly asserting that it has not yet seen evidence of direct involvement by Iran in the planning or execution of the Hamas attack.
President Biden’s Response
Biden, who is set to meet with Jewish leaders later Wednesday, sought to connect the Hamas attacks directly to decades of antisemitism and violence endured by Jews around the world.
“This attack has brought to the surface the painful memories and scars left by a millennium of antisemitism and genocide against the Jewish people,” Biden told reporters. He added, “We have to be crystal clear: There is no justification for terrorism, no excuse and the type of terrorism that was exhibited here is just beyond the pale, beyond the pale.”
Biden said he and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was at least the fourth call between Biden and Netanyahu since Saturday’s attack.
“The United States has Israel’s back and we’re going to be working on this through the day and beyond,” Biden said.