National Security Council

Via Teleconference

(April 14, 2024)

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Sorry for the delayed start, and thanks for joining the call. 

As a reminder, this call is on background and it’s embargoed until the completion of the call.

For your awareness, not for your reporting, on the call today we have [senior administration official].  He will be a “senior administration official” on the call.  We have [senior Defense official], who will be our “senior Defense official.”  And [senior military official], who will be our “senior military official.” 

Our speakers will have a few words at the top, and we’ll turn it over to Q&A. 

With that, [senior administration official], I’ll turn it over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  So, I’m going to go through just kind of an opening and talk a little bit about not only what happened last night, but also really over the last 10 days of preparation and try to give a little bit of color, then turn it over to my DOD colleagues.  Then, I’m happy to take some Q&A. 

So, last night, as you know, Iran conducted an unprecedented attack on the state of Israel with over 300 munitions, including, remarkably, over 100 ballistic missiles, as well as land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. 

President Biden, probably about 10 days ago now, had instructed all of us — the United States to defend Israel to the maximum extent possible and defeat the attack, ensuring all authorities were in place, all assets were in place.  And now that the attack has concluded, that’s exactly what we did as a country.  

With the support of a number of partners, including the UK and France, the United States enabled Israel to spectacularly defeat this unprecedented attack. 

Despite launching over 300 munitions from Iran and other points in the region, Israel and a coalition of partners were able to defeat 99 percent of these munitions.  There’s virtually no infrastructure damage to Israel at all. 

And just for context, President Biden is the first American president to directly defend Israel.  He followed and directed, really, every detail of this response, starting nearly two weeks ago as we began to receive word and indications that Iran was preparing for a large-scale attack. 

Iran’s intent clearly was to cause significant damage and deaths in Israel.  We believe this requires an unequivocal condemnation from the international community.  The President this morning convened the G7, and they have forcefully condemned the attack.  I think that statement is now out. 

And all the leaders on that call were totally united in the condemnation of Iran and the need to hold Iran to account for this unprecedented and defeated assault, and also the support for the defense of Israel was very much unanimously stated by all the leaders on that call, which I was on here earlier this morning. 

We’ve been mindful in the preparations that led to last night that if successful, this attack could have caused an uncontrollable escalation of broad regional conflict — something we have worked day and night to avoid since October 7th, over the past six months. 

I mentioned in the last 10 days of preparations.  And just to provide some examples: In addition to the forced posture adjustments, which we can discuss, administration officials have been in constant, ongoing, continuous contact with Israelis, with other partners in the region, as well as Iran with a series of direct communications through the Swiss channel and other relevant players in anticipation of the events that transpired last night.  

Secretary Austin — and I think my colleague can talk more about this — had regular consultations, obviously, with his Israeli counterparts — other counterparts throughout the region; Secretary Blinken, counterparts throughout the region, as well as Turkey and China; the chairman with his Israeli counterpart and others; Jake Sullivan, myself with Israelis up and down the system almost constantly.

Even last night, just as the attack was underway before we went to join the President, Ambassador Mike Herzog and the Israeli Defense Attaché visited me here at the White House to kind of walk through where we were, even as the attack was underway.

Constant engagements with G7, Quad, Gulf counterparts and, again, Chinese, Indians, Iraqis.  This was an ongoing effort over the last 10 days. 

And, of course, General Kurilla, our CENTCOM commander, was in the region, able to provide real-time updates and, of course, in very close coordination with the Israelis and all of our other partners.  

So, all along, President Biden was kept updated by his national security team — multiple times a day, really, over the last 10 days or so — behind the scenes of other events.

For example, preparations for what we believe was coming were continuous and ongoing.  Just one example: On the margins of the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit, Secretary Austin and Jake briefed the President on the possibility for additional military deployments, including an additional missile destroyer, which the President immediately authorized. 

Yesterday, of course, the President returned from Delaware and then gathered with his team throughout the evening in the Situation Room as events unfolded in real time.  So, he was in the Situation Room getting real-time updates as this unfolded, including at the time of missile launches. 

And just to kind of set the scene, I mean, at one point, we knew there were over 100 ballistic missiles in the sky — a very short period of travel time to Israel — a period of, really, minutes.  And the results of the defenses, of course, were unclear until all was said and done. 

As the results of the defenses came in, which is when we knew the preparations and planning had succeeded, there was a bit of — a bit of relief.  But you can imagine those tense moments. 

And at nine — nine o’clock p.m., the President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  And, again, just to set this scene, he, of course — the Prime Minister is with his — his War Cabinet in the war room as this was also unfolding in real time for them.  So, you know, the context for that call — it was shortly after we believed the attack was largely defeated.  The President reaffirmed our unwavering support for Israel’s defense. 

But, again, the context for the call, I think, keep in mind, both leaders had just gone through the 10 days of preparations and then the results, which were just becoming to be known, and we were feeling pretty good about where we were. 

But he told — the President told the Prime Minister that Israel really came out far ahead in this exchange.  Israel took out the IRGC’s — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ leadership in the Levant.  Iran tried to respond, and Israel had clearly demonstrated its military superiority, defeating this attack, particularly in coordination with — with partners — first and foremost, the United States and others. 

This morning, we met the President here early in the Situation Room — Jake Sullivan, Secretary Blinken, Jon Finer, myself, and others — again, to review the results of the attack.  The President spoke with the G7 leaders, as I mentioned, followed by a call with King Abdullah. 

The President and King Abdullah obviously go back many, many years, and the President values his wisdom and counsel.  And they talked about kind of broader regional situation and a number of broader issues.  

The President then spoke with [redacted], the commander of the 494th Fighter Squadron, a unit based in the UK, and [redacted], commander of the 335th Fighter Squadron unit from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.  These two squadrons had dozens of aerial takedowns last night, saving lives, reducing the risk of a broad regional conflict. 

The President expressed his thanks as their Commander-in-Chief for, really, their extraordinary airmanship and skill that was displayed throughout this multi-hour engagement over the course of last night. 

As for Iran, the President has been cleared — clear that their actions end here, and the same applies to Iran’s proxies.  If they take action against us, we are fully prepared to defend our people, our interests, and to hold Iran accountable, as we have shown a number of times over the last six months of this crisis.  

And just to conclude, I think the events of the last 10 days have demonstrated that while we may have some disagreements, the United States of America stands with Israel, and there’s no question that we will come to their defense when they are attacked.  Last night demonstrated that fact.  And when the President — what the President calls an ironclad commitment for the United States is just that.  And I think we showed that last night in real time in a truly unprecedented manner. 

So, with that, I think I will end the opening, turn it over to my DOD colleagues.  Then I’m happy to take questions.  

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Good afternoon.  This is [senior Defense official] as the senior defense official. 

So, just to add a couple of notes to [senior administration official]’s opening: Over the last 48 hours, Secretary Austin has been receiving regular updates from his senior commanders and staff concerning Iran’s attack against Israel.  Throughout the weekend, the Secretary was in close communication with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of Israel.  In addition, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been in touch with the IDF Chief of Staff, General Halevi.  And, of course, CENTCOM Commander, General Kurilla, is in the region and has been in continued contact with his Israeli counterparts as well. 

I think [senior administration official] cited the unprecedented nature of this attack against Israel.  Over 300 munitions, including over 100 ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles and UAVs.  These attacks were launched from locations in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen against Israeli territory.  And it was the first-ever direct attack on Israel from Iran — from Iranian soil. 

So, the Secretary, the Chairman, and other senior leaders from the Department joined the National Security Council from the White House in — in monitoring events in real time, as — as [senior administration official] described. 

Following the end of the attack, the Secretary again spoke with Minister Gallant and reinforced the U.S. ironclad commitment to Israel’s defense.

In coordination with the Israeli government, U.S. forces in the Middle East successfully intercepted many of these missiles and UAVs targeting Israel.  My colleague will detail some of the — the numbers. 

We are incredibly grateful here in the Department of Defense for the professionalism and skill of the brave U.S. troops who took part in these actions and who continue to stand guard to prevent further conflict or escalation.  

Iran’s attack is completely unacceptable and reckless and risks dragging the region into broader conflict.  These attacks also violated the airspace of neighboring Arab countries. 

So, let me be clear: Iran intended to cause significant damage in Israel, and they failed in their mission to do so, which is a testament to Israel’s military superiority and our collective defense. 

It’s undoubtedly a team effort, and with the support of our partners, we — together with the Israelis — were able to defeat this egregious attack.  And that was also made possible by decades’ worth of cooperation and investment in defense technologies. 

Our goal remains to de-escalate immediately and halt any further attacks.  We do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will not hesitate to act to protect our forces and support the defense of Israel.  And the President and the Secretary have been very clear that our support for Israel’s defense is ironclad and our forces remain postured to provide further support for Israel’s defense and to protect U.S. troops in the region.  

I’ll now turn it over to the joint staff for further operational updates. 

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Hey, good afternoon, and thanks for joining this call.  This is [senior military official]. 

As mentioned earlier, we currently assess Iran launched more than 300 air threats to include more than 100 medium-range ballistic missiles, more than 30 land-attack cruise missiles, and more than 150 one-way attack drones towards Israel. 

Also, as mentioned earlier, we currently assess there is no significant damage within Israel itself.

At the direction of the President and the Secretary of Defense, U.S. forces assigned to U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command actively engaged a number of the threats. 

The USS Arleigh Burke and USS Carney, operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, engaged and destroyed between four and six Iranian ballistic missiles during the attack.  U.S. alert aircraft in the region shot down more than 70 Iranian one-way UAVs headed toward Israel. 

A U.S. Army Patriot missile battery shot down one ballistic missile in the vicinity of Erbil, Iraq, assessed to be en route to Israel.  It is assessed that that missile was not targeting U.S. or coalition forces. 

There were no U.S. casualties or damage, and our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support to protect U.S. forces in the region. 

And I’ll be happy to take your questions.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  [Operator], if you could remind folks on how to queue up for questions, we’ll take your questions now. 

[Operator provides instructions.]

OPERATOR:  First person in our queue is Zeke Miller from the AP.  Please, go ahead.  

Q    Good afternoon.  Thank you for doing the call.  I was hoping you could give us a sense of what you were expecting next from the Israelis?  What has been the U.S. messaging to the Israelis about taking their own retaliation against Iran? 

And then in terms of the G7, was there any agreement on any sort of specific sanctions or other consequences that the international community, that the U.S. wants to emplace on Iran in the days ahead? 

And any additional messaging since this attack between the U.S. and Tehran, either through the Swiss channel or any — any others?  What would the nature of that messaging be?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me try to — try to break those down.  On the G7, there was a discussion — a fairly detailed — a fairly detailed and, I think, constructive discussion about Iran.  And I don’t want to speak for, obviously, the other capitals, but a discussion of some of those countries designate — designating the IRGC as a terrorist group — things like that — but also a coordinated effort on some sanctions measures that we had been discussing.  Some of the things that had hit some hurdles that I think we’re going to look to — look to move forward on, but I don’t want to get ahead of that process. 

It was discussed in some detail, and I think we have a decent way forward.  And I think the statement that the — I believe, the Italians have — have it out — speaks to some of that.  But so, that’ll be coming. 

You know, on the Israelis, look, we are committed to defending Israel.  We would not be a part of any — of any response they do.  That’s very consistent policy. 

The discussion between the leaders last night, again, was in the context of just having come through this incredibly intense period of hours and, I thought, a pretty good discussion about kind of where you go from here and different — kind of calculating appropriately. 

But I think John Kirby spoke to this as well today, and I think I’ll leave it at that. 

Our aim is to de-escalate regional tensions.  We do not want a broader regional conflict, but our focus has been to contain this crisis to Gaza.  That’s been a focus since October 7th.  That remains the focus. 

And part of our efforts, of course, in helping Israel — in the defense of Israel is just about that.  Helping to defend Israel — that is something that remains — I know it’s overstated, but it’s actually true — ironclad.  I mean, that is a true statement.  And I think what you — what you saw last night is what that means in practice.  We were ready for that.  We’re prepared.  And we’ll do it again if we have to. 

The Iranians did send us a message, but I don’t want to characterize it one way or the other.  We have decent ways to communicate with them, but I think we are speaking very publicly and openly about what happened last night and that there needs to be some consequences here.  And I think that was a — that was a good subject of discussion with our G7 counterparts.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is Jennifer Jacobs from Bloomberg.

Q    Hey.  Thanks, everybody.  Two things.  Hello, this is J.J., Jennifer Jacobs, from Bloomberg News.  On the 100 ballistic missiles that were in the air at the same time, if you guys could offer any more details on that — on how you went about countering that, just any inside details would be appreciated. 

And then also, as you push for de-escalation, what options is the U.S. steering Israel towards?  Can you say like, you know, are you making, you know, suggestions for alternative routes for them?  Thanks very much.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  This is senior military official.  With regard to the ballistic missile attack, it was a substantial number — as pointed out, more than 100 at one single time.  It was a, you know, extremely phenomenal display of the defensive capability of Israel in this regime. 

They were of course supported by U.S. forces, in particular our two destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean.  The targeting and ultimate shots that are taken are deconflicted between the U.S. and Israel in these sorts of engagements, but the overwhelming majority of those intercepts of ballistic missiles was by Israeli systems.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, just on Israel, Jennifer, I don’t think I’m going to go much deeper than I’ve — than I’ve said.  I mean, look, we — we were — when the Israelis were here, we had a meeting on the Rafah process that we kicked off about two weeks ago, and it was shortly after — shortly before that meeting began that we actually had a VTC with the Israelis on their side, but we had the Israeli Ambassador here and their Defense Attaché here in the White House. 

When we learned of their — of their strike in Damascus against the IRGC Levant leadership corps — and, of course, that leadership corps is focused on organizing regular and ongoing attacks against Israel.  But we — Jon Finer, myself, and Jake — were pulled aside to be informed specifically about details of that strike.  We were not a part of that strike, obviously. 

But we didn’t — we knew that that would have repercussions, and that kind of has played out here over the last — over the last two weeks. 

I think Israel has made clear to us they’re not looking for a significant escalation with Iran.  That’s not what they’re looking for.  They’re looking to protect themselves and defend themselves.  And so, that’s an ongoing discussion we’re having with the Israelis, but I don’t want to talk about specific pathways or anything else. 

I just think the President was very clear that we’re going to help defend Israel.  And he made very clear to the Prime Minister last night that we do have to think carefully and strategically about, you know, the risks of escalation.  And that’s something I think has been an ongoing conversation here with the Israeli side and others even throughout the — throughout today.

OPERATOR:  We have Andrea Mitchell from NBC News.

Q    Hi.  [Senior administration official], this is Andrea Mitchell from NBC News.  [Senior administration official] and [senior Defense official] and [senior military official] —


Q    Hi.  First of all, could you tell us whether you think that they decided not to strike back, as has been reported by the New York Times, after the President’s call?  Do you think that there was a cause and effect? 

And participating in the call as you did, did you think — from hearing the call, did you — did you think after that call that they were going to strike back?  If you — even if it weren’t — if it wasn’t cause and effect, but did you think that they made that decision partly influenced by the President’s call?

And how much of a risk do you think it would be if they do take such steps now, given some of the regional partners with whom you’ve dealt and obviously had some quiet cooperation?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think, Andrea — I mean, I have not seen that report.  Again, Israel here will make its — make its own decisions.  But we made our views known.  And I think the President — again, this call came at a moment in which we had just gone through this incredibly intense period of time.  And from the Israeli side, I mean, they were living through the same thing in real time, knowing that there are 100 ballistic missiles on their way to Israel. 

So, it’s a — it’s a period of kind of heightened emotion.  And I think the President, you know, had a discussion about trying to slow things down, think through things; given what we just went through, let’s assess kind of where we are. 

And in the light of day, as the sun came up this morning in Israel — and Jack Lew actually visited one of the Arrow counter- — counter-missile batteries with Israel’s Minister of Defense to kind of review the aftermath.  And I think the kind of spectacular success — I don’t use that word lightly — really — really became known in the light of day.  I mean, when you could really see that there was almost no damage at all, took down almost all of these things, it’s extraordinary. 

And I think when a call was — took place last night, when the President was in the Situation Room and we had been there for a period of hours, we knew we had largely defeated the attack, but the full extent of the — of how successful it was was not fully known.  And I think it was a very useful call just to kind of talk through where we are and next steps.  And, you know, nobody wants to run up the escalation ladder here. 

So, on the one hand, this is an unprecedented Iranian attack, as we’ve said a number of times.  It was also an extraordinary feat of military prowess and cooperation with partners in defeating it.  And I think Israel has to think through carefully what it does next, but as I said in my opening, I think, you know, they’ve kind of gotten the best of it here.  That’s very much our — our view.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  This is the senior defense official.  I’ll just add one thought to that.  You know, as I mentioned in my opening, the success that was achieved was, in part, the product of years of investment and cooperation in developing these missile defense technologies, including the ones that Ambassador Lew visited. 

And one of the great advantages of these technologies is not only, of course, the lives they save and the damage they prevent in defeating attacks, but in the flexibility they give leaders in how to respond to these situations. 

And so, that’s — that’s been borne out by the success of — of their missile defenses and ours that — that were additive.  And, of course, all the work that all the participants in the defense of Israel did last night is that it creates space and flexibility for decisions on next steps.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is from Jeff Mason from Reuters.

Q    Hi.  Thanks very much.  Can you gentlemen confirm that

Iran gave a 72-hour heads-up to other countries in the region about its attack?  And did it do the same to the United States through the conversations that you referenced with regard to Switzerland? 

And do you interpret that heads-up as a — as a sign that they wanted — that they were not looking for escalatory action or that they were — well, I guess my question is: How would you interpret that heads-up? 

And, lastly, if I can add one more, can you confirm that the President told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the United States would not participate in a counteroffensive?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On Iran, no, that is absolutely not true.  We — they did not give a notification, nor did they give any sense of, you know, “These will be the targets, so evacuate them.”  They were clearly intending to destroy and to cause casualties.  That was their intent.

And the fact that they didn’t, I think they might want to now say that, “Well, we didn’t mean to.”  But you launch 100 mis- — 100 ballistic missiles, you know, targeting certain locations, that was clearly their — their intent.  They just didn’t succeed.  And so, no, there was no such forewarning or anything like that. 

They were very clear that so- — you know, they would be responding and that was, you know, clearly going to happen.  The level, scope of it was something that was discussed throughout the week.  Their Foreign Minister would say something completely different than others, which is not an uncommon practice with them. 

But no, there was no kind of, like, warning as a way to kind of fire missiles but somehow not hurt anybody.  That was not — that was not their intent. 

Sorry, your second question?

Q    The second ques- —


Q    The second question was about the call and whether President Biden said to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the U.S. would not participate in a counteroffensive. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, yeah.  I think that’s — again, (inaudible) going back to the Damascus strike, for example, we had nothing to do with that.  You know, we — we believe Israel has freedom of action to protect itself and defend itself in Syria or elsewhere.  That’s a common — that’s a longstanding policy, and that remains.  But, no, we would not envision ourselves participating in such a thing.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is from Peter Baker with The New York Times.

Q    Oh, hi, guys.  Just to follow up on Jeff’s question.  The — putting aside the idea of a 72-hour notice, they certainly telegraphed publicly for more than a week that they were going to do this.  Everybody knew they were going to do this.  You all had those 10 days to get forces in the region.  I mean, does that not tell us anything? 

And in terms of the scope of what they did fire — more than 300 missiles and drones — is that on the high end, low end of what you expected?  What was your anticipation?  How do you — how do you — what context do you see that — that?  And do you think they still have plenty of munitions still to go, or what — does this deplete their ability to continue further attacks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, Peter, I think it’s fair to say the scope of this attack is on the high end.  Launching 100 medium-range ballistic missiles — over 100, that is definitely on the high end, and makes it harder to defeat — to defeat when you have that many missiles in the sky. 

And, again, I think it was due to the preparations, everything else.  I don’t think that the characterization is Iran gave us time to prepare.  They needed the time to prepare for themselves to do this. 

So, we — we took advantage of the time from the moment we had any sort of information something could be coming.  We got assets in place.  We got coordination in place.  And my DOD counterparts can talk more to this, but a truly extraordinary level of military coordination to be prepared for this — I mean, unbelievable.

And what General Kurilla did and everything else, in getting our assets in place and the President making sure we had all the authorities, everything in place, good to go — you know, my counterpart here in this call talking multiple times throughout — every day throughout the week, making sure everything was — was ready.  But until — you know, until it comes, you never — you never fully know. 

But just to kind of put a period on this: yeah, the high end, in my view. 

And we used the time wisely to prepare.  And I think — but I would not characterize it as if Iran gave us the time to prepare.  Their intent was clearly to be highly, highly destructive.  And that is in their public rhetoric, and I think it’s borne out by what they tried to do last night.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is from Yuna Leibzon from Channel 12 News Israel.  

Q    Thank you.  Yuna Leibzon from Channel 12 News Israel.  So, just following up on previous questions about the call and the message that the U.S. will not participate.  What exactly did the President say about any response from Israel? 

On one hand, we hear that there is an understanding that there’s supposed to be some sort of response, no escalation.  But what was the exact term that was used for the U.S. and its support or not support for an Israeli response to this attack?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so sorry.  I think — no surprise — first, I don’t have direct notes or a transcript in front of me, and I wouldn’t provide the exact terms, in any case, of the call. 

I think — I think I’ve described the call.  I think John spoke to the call this morning.  And we read out the call last night with the President’s statement.  So, I think it was very clear. 

I mean, of the — I would also say their last call 10 days or so ago, which had a number of issues to it — including, obviously, the situation in Gaza — humanitarian situation — the first issue discussed on the call was indications of this potential attack.  So, this has been ongoing communication with the Israelis from — from that level, but also through — through our systems. 

But last night, as I’ve mentioned, was really coming out of the immediate aftermath of the attack, kind of assessing where we were and thinking through carefully about the next steps.  So, I’m not going to characterize it beyond that.  

OPERATOR:  Our next question is from Gordon Lubold from The Wall Street Journal.  

Q    Hi there.  I wondered, [senior administration official], particularly, if you could just expand a little bit on how you brought this coalition together — a little bit of color would be welcome — in the last 10 days or whatever, as you began to see what — what was imminent. 

And, also, a little bit more about what General Kurilla’s role was in Israel the last 48 hours.  What was — what was his message?  How did he coordinate?  Thanks. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think anytime you’re talking about a coalition action, every capital has different legal standards, authorities.  And to make sure all of that is in place is — takes a, you know, military diplomatic effort. 

Here, I think we had the French and the — and the Brits were obvi- — they fly with us in — in this theater all the time and — and were very — very clearly ready.  But then also bringing in our additional assets and then ensuring everything was coordinated, that’s really done at a — at a mil-mil level.  And then kind of, you know, who takes down what and the organization for the defense was really done at a — at a military-to-military level. 

From time to time, there’d have to be political engagement in capitals, but also make sure we had all the accesses we need and everything else in order to — to defeat what we thought — thought to be a large-scale attack.  And as I mentioned in response to Peter’s question, this was on the high end, I think, of what we were — what we were anticipating. 

But I don’t know if my DOD colleagues might have — might have more.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, this is the senior defense official here.  Secretary Austin was in, you know, pretty much daily contact with General Kurilla, as were many of us and others throughout the CENTCOM system.  And it was really quite impressive to see the — the level of coordination and trust that that obviously requires between our CENTCOM colleagues and their Israeli counterparts. 

General Kurilla was able to meet, as well, with Minister Gallant and other Israeli leaders to keep them informed about his coordination with their military.  And — but it — it gets down into very, very fine details of coordination to be able to execute what happened last night, as [senior administration official] sort of alluded to.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, senior military official.  General Kurilla makes, you know, fairly routine visits to the region.  He has had an increased number of visits, you know, since October the 7th. 

While in Israel, he ensured that we were — we were prepared to deconflict and coordinate our supporting efforts to the defense of Israel.  He also discussed with them our pending operations to support the delivery of humanitarian aid from the sea into Gaza. 

But this was, you know, in light of Iranian rhetoric and to ensure that we were — we were best postured to support their defense.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’d just add, Gordon — I mean, it’s a good question, but to kind of — thinking through this, you know — one thing, we have a — we have a robust naval coalition, as you know, dealing with the Houthis.  And that has already provided a lot of, I think, the touchpoints, patterns of interaction, you need to be quite effective. 

But, also, I just — I think — I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the call — I should have — the Houthis did try to engage last night.  But because we have that so well covered, I think we destroyed a ballistic missile on a launchpad.  And the other — other stuff they launched obviously did not make it to the target because we — we just have that area so well covered.  And that’s with a number of coalition partners.  So, what we’ve done there, we’ve done elsewhere — just standing mechanisms. 

You know, there’s a — there’s a — between the Quad — with the French, the UK, and the Germans — I think Jake’s had a number of calls with his Quad counterparts to kind of coordinating this whole thing, particularly with the French and the Brits.  And then the — just the regular touchpoints between these capitals brought it together pretty quickly.  

OPERATOR:  Next in queue is Liz Friden from Fox News.  

Q    Thank you.  Jennifer Griffin here.  I’m just trying to understand.  You had a hundred ballistic missiles fired at Israel, and you say that four to six were shot down by naval assets in the eastern Med.  What shot down those other ballistic missiles, and was it, before it got in — they got into Israeli airspace? 

And if you could talk a little bit about how many U.S. fighter jets or aircraft were involved in stopping these drones, et cetera.  

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, this is senior military official.  The — the majority of those missiles were engaged by the Arrow system — Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 — in Israel — Israeli system. 

The intercepts themselves took place not — not only over Israeli airspace, but over neighboring countries as well.  It was a — it was a pretty broad engagement zone. 

There was, as you mentioned, between four and six — we’re still conducting analysis, but between four and six were confirmed by U.S. destroyers.  And then there was one that was confirmed by a U.S. Patriot battery as it flew near — in the vicinity of Erbil, Iraq. 

And the number of — as far as the number of aircraft, I — I can’t get into the — into the specific numbers and, you know, reveal how many forces we had there.  But it was — it was a number of aircraft, both land-based and from — from the sea.

OPERATOR:  Our next question is from Alexander Marquardt from CNN.  

Q    Thank you all for doing this.  [Senior administration official], I appreciate you don’t want to get into the specifics of — of the Iranian messaging, but I’m wondering if you could characterize how different it is — this is the direct message to the United States — how different that was in private to what we’ve heard in public — which was essentially, you know, “We’re done here,” and “The United States, don’t get involved” — and at what time or what stage in the process that messaging came in and whether there was a direct U.S. response in private back to Iran. 

And if I may, could you give us a sense of how you think this is going to play into Israel’s plans for Rafah and the ongoing ceasefire talks, which feel like they’re going a bit round and around?  We have today this latest rejection by Hamas to the latest proposal.  Thanks.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Alexander.  Yeah.  So, we — we received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss, basically suggesting that they were finished after this, but it was still an ongoing attack.  So, that was their — that was their message to us.  I think they’ve said that publicly as well. 

So, yeah, on — on Rafah, we have a process with the Israelis.  As we’ve discussed, I think, a number of times, I think, the complexities of Rafah, given Egypt, given the humanitarian dimension, given the density of the population there, given what it’s going to take, is extreme- — extraordinarily complex.  So, we have a process with them we kicked off about two weeks ago. 

I think, obviously, this situation delayed that a little bit.  But we look forward to pick- — picking that back up as early as next — this coming week, as it’s important.  Our expert teams have been — have been working through it, particularly on the humanitarian side and — so that we can provide our — our input, which the Israelis have agreed to do. 

They’ve also told us a number of times that anything there would be conditions-based, particularly with having the humanitarian situation set.  So, that’s a tall order of business.  And so, that’s something we’re continuing — continuing to work through. 

But I don’t think there’s a direct — just to answer your question, how does this — how does one affect the other, I think, if anything, it — you know, attention has been focused on this — this most immediate threat.  But we will get back to the situation with the hostages.  We have to get the hostages out of Gaza. 

It is outrageous that Hamas basically has an offer on the table that is everything they had asked for.  And I’m not going to confirm one w- — one way or the other what their response is, but pretty clear that Sinwar wants to hold hostages, including these young women, when releasing them and releasing old people and sick and wounded would result in an immediate ceasefire and all sorts of other things that are in this deal. 

So, it really is — it kind of speaks to everything you need to know about Hamas.  I have to think that answers the question.  

OPERATOR:  We have Alex Ward from Politico.  

Q    Yes.  Hi.  I guess just to ask a question very directly: I mean, does the U.S. not want Israel to respond to Iran at this point?  Should — should Israel just not do anything and take the defensive success as the win?  Thanks.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m just not going to say that so definitively.  I think it’s a — it’s a calculation the Israelis have to make.  This was an unprecedented attack from Iran against Israel. 

At the same time, we think in the overall exchange here — as I said in my opening, I think that the Israelis came out clearly very much on top and demonstrated their ability to defend their country in coordination with us and others — speaks for itself.  And I think a big question is not only — not only whether but what Israel might choose to do. 

And so, this is a decision — decision for them.  But I’m not going to answer it that specifically.  And I think the conversation between the President and the Prime Minister was really kind of thinking through strategically where we are after having just come through this very intense period of hours last night.  So, I’m not going to say that so definitively, no.

OPERATOR:  We have time for one more question.  We have Nadia Charters from Al Arabiya on the line.  

Q    Thank you.  Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Al Arabiya.  Do you all expect a new set of sanctions on Iran?  And, also, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the political wing of Hamas, congratulated the Iranian regime, and there was reports that Sinwar was holding in the hostage deal, waiting for the Iranian attack.  So, I know you touched on it a little bit, but do you believe that this attack will make it harder or easier for Hamas leaders to negotiate?  Thank you.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Nadia.  Hamas has been, since October 7th, trying to ignite a regional war.  That is what they want to do.  They say it publicly, and we know that’s what they’re trying to do. 

They have tried to do it through working with the Iranians.  They’ve tried to do it through Ramadan.  It’s in their public statements of what they tried to do and hope would — would happen over the course of Ramadan in Jerusalem.  It did not happen. 

I think they hope this incident would have — do — do the same.  So, that is what they want and, again, speaks to what they’re trying to do. 

Haniyeh was in Tehran about two weeks ago.  And, yeah, you know, they work closely together and coordinate.  And this is one reason why Israel faces very real threats from the IRGC and from the Houthis and from the proxies that are — you know, have a desire to encircle Israel.  And we’re going to ensure that they cannot succeed. 

So, what I just said in my opening: Look, we have dif- — we have differences and disagreements with Israel on a number of things, including, in particular, on Gaza.  And those are things we’re continuing to work through. 

But when it comes to the defense of Israel against Iran, as I said in my opening and as my DOD counterpart said, that commitment truly is ironclad. 

And I think I’ll end the call with a point that I think we demonstrated that last night, and we will continue to do so going forward.  

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Thank you, everyone, for joining.  That’s all the time we have for today. 

As a reminder, this call was on background, and the embargo is now lifted. 

On this call today, we had a senior administration official, senior defense official, and senior military official. 

Thanks, everyone.  Hope you have a good rest of your day.  

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