Today's D Brief: Hamas-Israel war; US reaction; Rain arrives in Ukraine; Army modernization; And a bit more.

Hamas vs. Israel, again. Rockets are targeting multiple northern and southern Israeli cities Tuesday, including the capital of Tel Aviv, as the militant group Hamas continues its new assault on Israel that began with a brutal surprise attack across several fronts on Saturday. 

At least 1,600 people have died so far from the fighting, which has caused Israel to declare war and call up 360,000 reservists, which the New York Times reports is a record number in such a short period of time (four days of conflict). The death toll includes around 900 in Israel, and almost 700 in Gaza, according to the Associated Press, citing the Israeli military and officials in Gaza.  

“Hamas will understand that by attacking us, they have made a mistake of historic proportions,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writing Monday on social media. “The savage attacks that Hamas perpetrated against innocent Israelis are mindboggling,” he said; and those attacks included “slaughtering families in their homes, massacring hundreds of young people at an outdoor festival, kidnapping scores of women, children and elderly, even Holocaust survivors.”

“We will exact a price that will be remembered by them and Israel’s other enemies for decades to come,” Netanyahu vowed. Already, the scale of violence rivals Israel’s war with Egypt and Syria 50 years ago. Reuters reports the Israeli air force is carrying out its “fiercest” attacks on the Gaza Strip in its 75-year conflict with the Palestinians, “razing whole districts to dust despite a threat from Hamas militants to execute a captive for each home hit.”

What does Hamas want? Palestinian statehood and an end to Israeli occupation, for starters. According to AP, reporting Monday from Jerusalem, “Desperation has grown among Palestinians, many of whom see nothing to lose under unending Israeli control and increasing settler depredations in the West Bank, the blockade in Gaza and what they see as the world’s apathy.” 

Meanwhile, “Israel is run by its most hard-right government ever, dominated by ministers who adamantly reject Palestinian statehood,” AP writes. So it’s far from clear when the current fighting could come to an end. 

The view from Washington: “Hamas is a terrorist group. Full stop,” said a White House official in a phone call with reporters on Saturday, and promised, “we will treat Hamas for what they are. They are an international terrorist organization.” 

“The Israelis have described this as their September 11th,” a Pentagon official told reporters Monday. “This is ISIS-level savagery that we have seen committed against Israeli civilians—houses burned to the ground, young people massacred at music festivals,” the official said. 

That’s partly why the Pentagon ordered its USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean shortly after the attacks began. That group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy; and four Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers—USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt. 

The U.S. military also augmented F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a statement Sunday, and added, “The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required.”

The Pentagon is already sending additional military aid to Israel, John Kirby of the National Security Council said Monday evening. “We fully expect that there will be additional requests for security assistance from Israel as they continue to expend munitions in this fight,” he said. “And we will stay in lockstep with them, making sure that we’re filling their needs as best we can and as fast as we can.”

Developing: Hamas officials claim Iran helped plan the attacks, according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting Sunday from Dubai. However, White House and Pentagon officials said publicly afterward that they have not yet seen any evidence to support that claim, though officials are watching closely for any signs. After all, Kirby said Monday evening, “Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years—tools, training, capabilities—certainly rhetorically but in much more tangible ways than that.  So, absolutely, there’s a degree of complicity here writ large.” 

At least 11 Americans have been killed in the attacks by Hamas militants; others may be held hostage. (The New York Times is keeping tabs on foreigners who are believed to have perished or remain unaccounted for so far, here.) President Joe Biden said Monday that he’s “directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts.”

“In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis,” said Biden. “We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives.”

  • Stand by: Biden has planned public remarks on the conflict in Israel Tuesday afternoon at around 1 p.m. ET from the White House. 

Biden also joined his French, German, Italian, and British counterparts condemning Hamas “and its appalling acts of terrorism,” according to a joint statement released Monday. “There is never any justification for terrorism,” they said, and threw their support behind Israel, warning, “this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage.” 

“All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the five leaders added. “But make no mistake,” they said; “Hamas does not represent those aspirations, and it offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed.”

Looking ahead, if the U.S. wants to help Israel and Ukraine simultaneously in their times of need, “We need additional support from Congress,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told reporters at the AUSA annual conference in Washington on Monday. Wormuth has been spending the last several months trying to shake out whatever additional munitions she can from the U.S. defense industrial base to help satisfy Ukraine’s artillery needs. 

The Army will need “additional funding from Congress, to be able to increase our capacity…to expand production and then to also pay for the munitions themselves,” she said Monday. 

A Pentagon official concurred on Monday, telling reporters, “This is a clarifying moment in which we would welcome working in a bipartisan manner with Congress and the executive branch to ensure that we're sending a signal to allies and partners across the world that our government, both parties and both branches of our government, are working together to ensure that the appropriate authority and appropriations are available to support and respond to crises and contingencies.”

A snapshot from the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting: “As the war raged in the Middle East, the annual AUSA show went on in Washington—but several of the display booths at Israel’s capacious pavilion on the show floor sat deserted,” Defense One staff reported Monday. “Instead, a candle burned on a counter and sales representatives wore black swatches behind their U.S.-Israel flag pins. Israel Aerospace Industries canceled a planned press event.” 

We have a bit more from AUSA below the fold…

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy opened in Annapolis, Maryland, with a class of 50 midshipmen and seven professors. The curriculum included mathematics and navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French.

Pentagon chief Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Charles Brown are traveling to Brussels for Wednesday’s in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which is the 16th group meeting to date. While in Brussels, Secretary Austin will also join a NATO Defense Ministerial scheduled for Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The rainy season has begun in Ukraine, though conditions vary across the vast front lines, according to the latest assessment from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, writing Monday evening. Otherwise, Ukrainian forces continue to advance incrementally in several locations around western Zaporizhzhia and to the east, while the deteriorating weather is making drone operations more challenging. Reuters has a bit more on recent alleged Ukrainian gains, here

It’s a big week for Pentagon officials in public, due partly to the AUSA conference in downtown D.C. But it’s also a busy week for several other organizations hosting events this week, too, including the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. 

Army chief Gen. Randy George is set to speak Tuesday at the AUSA conference; that’s slated for 12:30 p.m. ET. NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM commanders are expected to speak as well at AUSA on Tuesday. Check out an online interactive schedule for AUSA, here.

Indo-Pacific Command's Intelligence Director Rear Admiral Thomas Henderschedt headlines the event hosted by INSA. He’ll be speaking with INSA President Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg at 2 p.m. ET. Details here

Space Force Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Intelligence Maj. Gen. Gagnon is visiting CSIS for a 3 p.m. ET event entitled, “Implementing Competitive Endurance: Space Intelligence.” Details and livestream, here.

And Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall is visiting the Atlantic Council to unpack Air and Space Force modernization at about 3:30 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here

News out of AUSA:

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned to Defense One for more coverage out of AUSA.