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PRESIDENT HERZOG:  Welcome, Mr. Secretary.  You’re a great friend, and we appreciate it and we respect it.  And I want to commend you wholeheartedly on behalf of the people of Israel for your moral clarity, for your incredible speeches, especially the one in the Senate which gave the clear picture and the real truth as to the fate of the hostages, as to the tragedy that has befallen on our people, and of course as to the inherent right of the Israelis to defend themselves.  And we are hearing from the outside the demonstration of the families.  Our heart goes out to them.  We understand it.  We want their immediate release.

And finally, I want to say something with your respect as to the humanitarian – the humanitarian and international law-abiding by the state of Israel.  So this is a leaflet which we are sending (inaudible) over 1 million 2 hundred leaflets to the citizens of Gaza.  We’ve carried out 6 million text messages and 4 million phone calls to the citizens of Gaza according to the rules of international law where we alerted the citizens in advance, including before the Jabalia attack:  please move out, because as we have the right to self-defense, we want you to go out of the premises from where missiles and guns and bombs and mortars are shelled at our people and from where the horrendous, atrocious attacks too went out.  So you move out so we can go in according to international law and defend our people.  Six million text messages and 4 million phone calls and 1.2 million pamphlets, and phone calls in addition to all of that speaks for itself as we protect the civilians moving out to a safe zone, giving them the right and necessary humanitarian aid, and enabling ourselves to defend ourselves.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, thank you, Mr. President, and it’s always good to be back in Israel.  These are difficult days, but we’re here, as we’ve been, as we remain, in solidarity with Israel.  We stand strongly for the proposition that Israel has not only the right but the obligation to defend itself and to do everything possible to make sure that this October 7th can never happen again.

At the same time, as you’ve just made clear, how Israel does this matters.  And it is very important that when it comes to the protection of civilians who are caught in a crossfire of Hamas’s making that everything be done to protect them and to bring assistance to those who so desperately need it and who are not in any way responsible for what happened on October 7th.

So we’re working on all of that together, but we have a shared determination and that determination will not wane.  We also are thinking every single moment of our hostages – so many Israelis, Americans, other nationals – and we are determined to do everything that we can to bring them back safely, to bring them back to be with their families and loved ones.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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