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Biden meeting with his national security team as US pledges 'support' for Israel against Iran

President Joe Biden arrives on Marine One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, April 13, 2024.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house to meet with his national security team at the White House Saturday and monitor the situation in the Middle East as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

Tensions are at their highest since the Israel-Hamas war began six months ago after a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals in the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force. Iran has promised to retaliate against Israel, and U.S. and Israeli officials have been bracing for an attack, raising concerns about the conflict escalating into a wider regional war.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a Saturday statement that “Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel.” She added: “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

Biden boarded the presidential helicopter from a park near his house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to return to Washington Saturday afternoon shortly before Israeli officials confirmed that they had detected drones being launched toward their territory from Iran. He was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room to discuss the events and plan the U.S. response.

The Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies." National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington's “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Biden on Friday said the United States was "devoted” to defending Israel and that “Iran will not succeed.” Asked by reporters what his message was for Iran, the president’s only reply was: “Don’t.”

He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct U.S. military response, and when asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he did not want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”

The U.S., along with its allies, have sent direct messages to Tehran to warn against further escalating the conflict.

During the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border. U.S. officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on U.S. forces at bases in those countries since war started on Oct. 7.

One attack in late January killed three U.S. service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the U.S. launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria.

Meantime, on Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the U.S. strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.

“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said.

Also Saturday, the Israeli-occupied West Bank also saw some of the worst violence since Hamas' attack on Israel.

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Price reported from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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