Secretary of State Antony Blinken has completed an emotional visit to Israel, where he said American support for the Jewish state will never falter, following attacks by Hamas militants that killed hundreds of Israelis.
"The message I bring to Israel is this: You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself. But as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to," he said, speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Blinken was asked about photos Netanyahu showed him of babies and young people slaughtered in terror attacks Saturday by Hamas. Blinken said the images were overwhelming.
"This is a moment where everyone needs to make clear that there is revulsion and disgust and the determination not to allow this to go forward. So, images are worth a 1,000 words. These images may be worth a million," he said.
Blinken is heading from Israel to Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday. He announced a major diplomatic tour in the coming days, saying he will visit with leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Earlier, Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called on countries around the world to condemn the deadly surprise attacks by Hamas, saying this is a moment for "moral clarity."
Netanyahu thanked Blinken for coming to Israel in the middle of the crisis and for America's support, while giving an emotional account of the attacks that have killed more than 1,000 Israelis.
"The burning of people alive, the beheadings, the kidnappings of a young boy not only kidnapped, molested, hurt, but the attack and the sickening display of celebrating these horrors, the celebration and glorification of evil. President Biden was absolutely correct in calling this sheer evil," Netanyahu said.
Blinken, who arrived earlier in the day, began with a personal aside, saying he had come to Israel at this critical time as a Jew, and as a husband and a father.
"You've heard the prime minister say this must be a moment for moral clarity," he said. "The failure to unambiguously condemn terrorism puts at risk not only people in Israel, but people everywhere."
Blinken said the Hamas attacks affect the whole world.
"Look at what just happened — individuals from 36 countries killed or missing in the aftermath of the heinous attacks. Europe, Asia, Africa the Americas — no region has escaped Hamas' bloody reach," he said.
Blinken will hold talks in the region on how to win the release of an estimated 150 hostages held by Hamas. The number of U.S. citizens confirmed dead in the Hamas attack in Israel over the weekend has risen to 27, with 14 more still unaccounted for, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.
Blinken's visit to Israel is the first leg in a major diplomatic push to several countries in the Middle East to prevent the violence from spilling over into other countries.
He is expected to hold talks with leaders in the region on establishing a humanitarian corridor, with some 2 million Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza while Israel seeks to destroy Hamas' operating capacity there. Blinken had this to say about the situation.
"Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself," said Blinken. "How Israel does this, matters. We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by placing value on human life. So, it is important to take every precaution. We mourn the loss of every life."