Oct 7, 2023 - World

Biden warns Israel's enemies against taking advantage of fighting in Israel, Gaza

People standing on a rooftop watch as a ball of fire and smoke rises above a building in Gaza City on October 7, 2023 during an Israeli air strike

Israeli strikes hit buildings in Gaza. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden in a statement on Saturday warned "against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage" of the situation in Israel and Gaza after Hamas launched a surprise invasion of Israeli territory.

Why it matters: Biden's statement after his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscores the concern in the White House and in Israel about the possibility of the war broadening to other fronts.

  • The IDF spokesperson said the Israeli army is on high alert in the northern command. "Whoever is going to attack us on the northern front will pay a heavy price," the spokesperson said.

Driving the news: The Hamas militant group caught the Israeli military by surprise early Saturday local time, breaking through the border wall and invading several Israeli villages and towns.

  • It took the Israeli military several hours before retaliating with a heavy bombardment against Gaza. Netanyahu said Israel is at war, "not an 'operation,' not a 'round,' but at war."

At least 300 Israelis and 256 Palestinians have been killed since the attack and retaliation strikes began on Saturday, according to health authorities. Thousands of others have been injured.

  • Hamas told Al Jazeera it launched "this battle" because of "atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa."
  • It also called on "resistance fighters in the West Bank" and in "our Arab and Islamic nations" to join the fight in a statement posted on Telegram, per Al Jazeera.
  • The attack comes after weeks of escalating violence and amid a deep political crisis in Israel over the Netanyahu government's judicial overhaul, which has weakened the country's military, economy and society.

What they're saying: Biden stressed the U.S. stands by Israel and fully supports its right to defend itself.

  • "The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel," Biden said in his statement.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on social media said that she unequivocally condemned "the attack carried out by Hamas terrorists against Israel."

  • "Israel has the right to defend itself against such heinous attacks," she said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani congratulated Palestinian fighters, calling the attack a "turning point in the ongoing process of armed resistance by the Palestinian people," per the semi-official ISNA news organization.

  • "What happened today is in line with the continuation of the victories of the anti-Zionist resistance movement in various areas, including in Syria, Lebanon, and occupied territories," he was quoted as saying.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on social media the U.K. "unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. The UK will always support Israel's right to defend itself."

The Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Israel is "solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its continuous violations of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the recent repeated incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police."

  • It called on all parties to "de-escalate and exercise maximum restraint."

Saudi Arabia, which has been negotiating a possible mega-deal with the U.S. that could include normalization between the kingdom and Israel, called on both sides to end the escalation and protect civilians, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA.

  • It also recalled its previous "repeated warnings of the danger of the explosion of the situation, as a result of the continued occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities."

Some Arab countries that have already normalized relations with Israel had more muted responses.

  • The United Arab Emirates expressed "great concern" and "stressed the importance of halting escalation and preserving the lives of civilians."
  • Bahrain stressed "the need for de-escalation among all parties to preserve the lives of people." It added that "the continuation of violence will impede the efforts aiming at achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Go deeper: Netanyahu tells Biden: "Israel will win" in war against Hamas

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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