President Joe Biden said Monday that at least 11 American citizens were killed in the weekend Hamas attacks on Israel, and others may have been taken hostage by the militant group.
The death toll could increase as U.S. officials say an undetermined number of American citizens remain missing and unaccounted for.
"We also know that American citizens still remain unaccounted for, and we are working with Israeli officials to obtain more information as to their whereabouts," Biden said. "My heart goes out to every family impacted by the horrible events of the past few days. The pain these families have endured, the enormity of their loss, and the agony of those still awaiting information is unfathomable.
The president added that U.S. officials believe it is likely that American citizens may be among those being held by Hamas.
"I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts," Biden said.
The State Department is in touch with families of those confirmed dead "and providing all appropriate consular assistance," said spokesman Matthew Miller.
The names of the Americans who died have not been released.
J, a Jewish news outlet in the Bay Area, reported that a 23-year-old who was born in Berkeley and moved to Israel at age 7 was missing.
The publication said Hersh Goldberg-Polin had left home at 11 p.m. Friday night for an all-night outdoor party near the Gaza border, which Hamas terrorists raided on Saturday morning, killing some 250 young adults and kidnapping others. Goldberg-Polin had completed his mandatory army service in April.
The attack by Hamas and retaliation by Israel has left more than 1,100 dead on both sides.
Israel's defense minister on Monday ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip.
The defense minister's announcement on Monday came as Israel’s military scoured the country’s south for Hamas fighters and guarded breaches in its border fence with tanks while pounding Gaza from the air.
A spokesperson said the Israeli military regained control of border communities taken by Hamas fighters during the attack. But Palestinian militants continued firing barrages of rockets, setting off air raid sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday he had ordered the Ford carrier strike group to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean to be ready to assist Israel. The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy's newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, and its approximately 5,000 sailors and deck of warplanes will be accompanied by cruisers and destroyers in a show of force that is meant to be ready to respond to anything, from possibly interdicting additional weapons from reaching Hamas and conducting surveillance.
The large deployment reflects a U.S. desire to deter any regional expansion of the conflict. But the Israeli government formally declared war Sunday and gave the green light for "significant military steps" to retaliate against Hamas.
Along with the Ford, the U.S. is sending the cruiser USS Normandy and destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt, and the U.S. is augmenting Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region.
"The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required," Austin said in a statement.
In addition, the Biden administration "will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions. The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days," Austin said.
The Norfolk, Virginia-based carrier strike group already was in the Mediterranean. Last week it was conducting naval exercises with Italy in the Ionian Sea. The carrier is in its first full deployment.
Senior officials from the Pentagon and State Department briefed senators Sunday night, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were assured that the United States was giving Israel "everything they need."
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