PRESIDENT HERZOG:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  Welcome to Israel again.

Unfortunately, as we are meeting now, there are casualties in a serious terror attack in the entrance to Jerusalem, our capital.  Two terrorists have attacked innocent civilians waiting for to be picked up to go on their day’s work.  And we have casualties, we (inaudible) loss of life, and I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families, and of course to pray for the swift recovery of the wounded.  This is another example of the situation we’re in, the endless war that we are fighting against terror organizations, especially Hamas, in these very complicated and challenging times.

I thank you for coming here.  As always, you’ve been expressing the support of the United States, the President, administration, and I must say, on behalf of the American people at large.  So I thank you very much.  We are working and praying and demanding the immediate release of all the hostages, and I thank the United States of America for the immense work it is devoting to the release of the hostages.  There are still around 150 hostages who are there in Hamas hands in Gaza.

I would like to raise the plight of the Bibas family, the two young children – 10-months-old baby, four-years-old girl, and of course her parents – that where – their whereabouts are unknown to us, and we are demanding their immediate release.  It was obvious that little toddlers will be released with their mother and hopefully with their father as soon as possible.

And finally, Mr. Secretary, you are following in the footsteps of a giant, a titan – Dr. Henry Kissinger – who has left us peacefully tonight.  We are big admirers of Henry Kissinger, who laid down the foundations of so many great decisions of his and processes which he has led, which has brought results that we feel until today, peaceful results.  He laid the cornerstone of the peace agreement, which were later signed with Egypt, and so many other processes around the world.  I admired Henry Kissinger.  In our last conversation, he ended the call by saying:  Mr. President, please know I’ve always loved and admired and supported the State of Israel.  And so I always felt his love and compassion for Israel and his belief in the Jewish state.  Thank you and good morning.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, thank you, Mr. President.  This is my fourth visit Israel since October 7th.  And as you said, we’re reminded yet again by the events in Jerusalem today of the threat from terrorism that Israel and Israelis face every single day.  And like you, my heart goes out to the victims of this attack.  I believe one person lost life —

PRESIDENT HERZOG:  It may be three now.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — (inaudible) maybe as many as three.  We’re thinking of them; we’re thinking of their families, their loved ones.  And we mourn their loss just as we mourn the loss of any innocent life.

From day one, we have been focused relentlessly on trying to secure the release of hostages from Gaza, from Hamas.  And we have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families, and that should continue today.  It’s also enabled a significant increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately.  So this process is producing results, it’s important, and we hope that it can continue.  At the same time, I look forward to detailed conversations with the Government of Israel about the way ahead in Gaza.  The United States firmly supports Israel in its right to defend itself and to try to ensure that October 7th never happens again.

You noted the passing of Henry Kissinger.  Secretary Kissinger really set the standard for everyone who followed in this job.  I was very privileged to get his counsel many times, including as recently as about a month ago.  He was extraordinarily generous with his wisdom, with his advice.  Few people were better students of history – even fewer people did more to shape history – than Henry Kissinger.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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