Update at 9:30 a.m. ET on Oct. 9, 2023: At least nine Americans have been confirmed dead and several others remain missing following Hamas’ attacks that killed 700 Israelis. “At this time, we can confirm the deaths of nine U.S. citizens,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. “We can confirm that there are unaccounted-for U.S. citizens, and we are working with our Israeli partners to determine their whereabouts.”
Several Americans are dead and others were possibly taken hostage in a large-scale offensive by Hamas militants against Israel. The combined death toll surged to over 1,100 as of early Monday and is expected to rise, according to U.S. officials, as a report says Iranian security officials helped plan the attack.
“We’ve got reports that several Americans are among the dead,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We’re working very actively to verify those reports. At the same time, the reports of Americans being taken hostage — there, too, we’re working to get the facts to find out if those reports are accurate.”
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer told the network that Americans are among the “scores” of hostages being held in Gaza.
Citing sources who briefed key House committees on Sunday, CNN reported that four Americans have died in attacks near Israel’s Gaza border, and the death toll is expected to rise.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also confirmed the death of four Americans, agreeing that the number could rise.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel early Saturday, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating the heavily fortified border near Gaza. Israeli officials confirmed that over 700 Israeli civilians and military personnel had died as of early Monday, with another 2,150 reported wounded. At least 413 Palestinians had also been reported dead, according to officials and the Gaza Health Ministry.
Blinken described the assault as the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 carried out by Egypt and Syria. However, he differentiated the current situation from past conflicts, emphasizing that this is a terrorist assault involving home invasions and kidnappings.
The bipartisan Senate Abraham Accords Caucus condemned the attack on Israel, saying the group “stands with our ally Israel.”
“Israel has every right to defend itself against this ruthless attack by an Iranian-backed terrorist group. The world must know that Israel has our full support against terrorism,” Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., said in a statement released by the Caucus and sent to The Christian Post.
Israel has deployed special forces to regain control of four locations from Hamas fighters following the group’s unprecedented incursion, according to The Associated Press, which reported that Israel officially on Sunday declared war and authorized “significant military steps” in retaliation for Hamas’ surprise attack.
The Israeli military escalated its efforts to eliminate fighters in southern towns and intensified airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, citing senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, The Wall Street Journal said Iranian security officials helped plan the Hamas attack.
Officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been working with Hamas since August to plan the assault, WSJ said, adding that details of the operation were fine-tuned in multiple meetings in Beirut, attended by officers from IRGC and representatives from four Iran-backed militant groups, including Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group and political faction in Lebanon.
While a European official and an adviser to the Syrian government corroborated Iran’s involvement, aligning with the account given by senior Hamas and Hezbollah members, U.S. officials said they had not seen evidence of Iran’s involvement.
Mahmoud Mirdawi, a senior Hamas official, claimed that the group planned the attacks independently, according to WSJ, which quoted a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations as saying that Iran supported Gaza’s actions but did not direct them.
Israeli security officials have pledged to strike at Iran’s leadership if Tehran is found responsible for killing Israelis.
Blinken has indicated that the U.S. has not requested Israel to refrain from striking Iran.
Blinken also dismissed the idea that the attack was an attempt to exploit the West’s focus on Ukraine, suggesting that the assault might be a response to U.S. efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are opposed by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Several Christian leaders in the U.S. have condemned the Hamas for the attack.
Robert J. Pacienza, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founder of the Institute for Faith & Culture, called for urgent prayers for Israel and the region in a statement to The Christian Post. He said the attacks have been carried out by terrorists and funded by Iran, putting democracy and freedom at risk globally. Pacienza emphasized that Christians should be particularly concerned about the humanitarian and religious liberties that are under threat due to the attacks.
The interdenominational group Congress of Christian Leaders called for prayers for Israel’s peace and security.
The Rev. Johnnie Moore wrote on Twitter that his group is “issuing an emergency call to prayer for the peace and security of Israel.” Churches from all over the world would gather on the weekend standing with Israel and dedicating time to pray for Israel, he added.
Sacha Roytman Dratwa, CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement, also condemned the “coordinated terrorist assault on Israel” in a statement, saying it “shocks the conscience.”
Free Religious Freedom Updates
Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.