WASHINGTON — US President Joseph R. Biden warned Iran to “be careful” on Wednesday and told Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States is sending more military assistance to help Israel fight Hamas militants.
Speaking to a group of Jewish community leaders, Mr. Biden for the first time connected the US deployment of a carrier fleet near to Israel to concerns Iran might seek to become involved, as Israel reels from an attack from Gaza by Hamas militants who killed more than 1,000 people in southern Israel.
“We moved the US carrier fleet to the eastern Mediterranean and we are sending more fighter jets to that region, and made it clear to the Iranians: Be careful,” he said.
US officials say they have not been able to establish a direct link between the Hamas attack but are searching to see if they can find one, since Hamas is supported by Tehran.
Mr. Biden also said that in his fourth phone call with Mr. Netanyahu in the five days since the Hamas attack took place on Saturday, he assured him that more military aid was on the way.
Mr. Biden and his team are grappling with how to gain the freedom of any potential American hostages held by Hamas. At least 22 US citizens were among the dead, the State Department confirmed, and at least 17 Americans are missing. The White House said the confirmed number of Americans who have died or are being held hostage could rise.
Many US lawmakers are eager to send Israel more military equipment but some are cool to funding Ukraine’s war to repel Russian invaders.
The White House has been considering a budget request tying money for these two conflicts together to increase the chances that the Ukraine assistance will be approved.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the parameters for an additional funding request to Congress had yet to be finalized.
In the near term, Washington can continue to support both Israel and Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia, but “we’re certainly running out of runway,” he said at a press briefing.
In emotional remarks a day earlier, Mr. Biden called the attack “an act of sheer evil,” and said that US military assistance was being sent to help Israel in its fight.
NBC News on Wednesday reported that the White House is preparing to seek supplemental funding from US lawmakers for those two countries, as well as for Taiwan and US border security. — Reuters