A senior U.S. diplomat fought back tears as she stood by a site where Palestinian militants stormed Israel from Gaza and allegedly targeted civilians.
In a video shared exclusively with Newsweek, Stephanie Hallett, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Israel, stood alongside senior defense official and defense attaché Captain Frank Schlereth during what she said was a visit Wednesday “along the Gaza periphery to bear witness to the atrocities that were committed here on Saturday,” when Hamas launched its deadliest-ever assault on Israel in a surprise land, air and sea operation.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Hallett said, beginning to choke up. “As a mother and just as a human being, to see and to know what happened here is really important, to say that we’ve been here, we’ve seen it and it is evil, and we stand with Israel, all of us.”
On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden also used the term “evil” to describe the attack that has so far killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, including at least 14 U.S. citizens. The U.S. leader pledged his stalwart support for Israel in resolving ongoing hostage situations and asserted he would call on Congress to increase aid to the U.S. ally.
Both the U.S. and Israel consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization, while the group views itself to be a national liberation force.
Hamas took aim at Biden’s speech, saying in a statement shared with Newsweekthat his support for Israel was “giving full cover to continue its massacres against defenseless children, women and the elderly” as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombs the Gaza Strip, where Hamas and other groups, such as Islamic Jihad, are based. The Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry has reported on the deaths of at least 1,087 people in the effectively blockaded coastal Palestinian enclave.
In a follow-up statement shared with Newsweek on Wednesday, Hamas “strongly dismissed the false claims promoted by some Western media outlets, such as Palestinian freedom fighters killing children and targeting civilians.”
IDF personnel on the ground have described scenes of systemic killings and abductions committed by Hamas fighters as they swarmed a music festival and entered homes in southern Israeli villages. Meanwhile, reports and images of widespread destruction continue to emerge from Gaza as a result of Israeli strikes.
The latest episode in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the bloodiest in decades and has the potential to have wide-ranging consequences for both peoples and the region as a whole.
This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.