'Depravity in the worst imaginable way': Blinken describes images of Hamas attack victims

"It's simply depravity in the worst imaginable way," Blinken said.

ByJanice Yu ABCNews logo
Thursday, October 12, 2023
US Secretary Antony Blinken visits Israeli top officials as war continues
James Longman reports from the Middle East as the war continues. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in Israel meeting with top officials.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday described gruesome photos and videos he reviewed depicting victims of Hamas' terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.

"It's hard to find the right words. It's beyond what anyone would ever want to imagine, much less, God forbid, experience," he said at a press conference in Israel. "A baby, an infant, riddled with bullets. Soldiers beheaded. Young people burned alive. I could go on, but it's simply depravity in the worst imaginable way."

Blinken said that the photos, shown to him behind closed doors by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government, would ultimately show exactly the horrors its people have confronted and serve to unify through "moral clarity."

"So, images are worth 1000 words, these images may be worth a million," he asserted.

The secretary of state told Israel earlier on Thursday that the United States will "always be there" for the nation as it continues to grapple with the attack by Hamas terrorists.

"People of Israel have long and rightly prided themselves on their self-reliance, on their ability to defend themselves, even when the odds are stacked against them," Blinken said, standing at a podium next to Netanyahu. "The message that I bring to Israel is this: You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself. But as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to. We will always be there by your side."

On ABC News Live at 8:30 pm on Thursday, Oct. 12, ABC News' James Longman, Matt Gutman and Ian Pannell look at the horrendous toll from Hamas' massacre, the Israelis and Palestinians caught in middle and what comes next.

Blinken remarked that some U.S. aid had already been delivered, and that more military aid was on his way. He said the administration would work with Congress to meet Israel's additional needs and that bipartisan support for Israel was "overwhelming."

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Netanyahu told Blinken that his visit is "another tangible example of America's unequivocal support for Israel" and thanked the secretary of state in both English and Hebrew.

Netanyahu then described some of the atrocities committed by Hamas.

"Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilization: The massacring of young people in an outdoor music festival, the butchering of entire families, the murder of parents in front of their children and the murder of children in front of their parents. The burning of people alive. The beheadings, the kidnappings of a young boy -- not only kidnapped -- molested, hurt, attacked, and the sickening display of celebrating these horrors the celebration and glorification of evil," he said. "President Biden was absolutely correct in calling this 'sheer evil.'"

Blinken also said that Hamas' attacks "brought to mind the worst of ISIS," echoing much of what Netanyahu said.

"Babies slaughtered. Bodies desecrated. Young people burned alive. Women raped. Parents executed in front of their children, children in front of their parents. How are we even to understand this, to digest this?" he said.

"And yet, at the same time, the same time that we've been shocked by the depravity of Hamas, we've also been inspired by the bravery of Israel citizens. The grandfather, who drove over an hour to a kibbutz under siege, armed only with a pistol and rescued his kids and grandkids. The mother who died shielding her teenage son with her body, giving her life to save his -- giving him life for a second time. The volunteer security teams on the kibbitzes that swiftly rallied to defend their friends and neighbors, despite being heavily outnumbered," Blinken continued.

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After the remarks, Blinken heard some more of those stories of heroism firsthand when he paid a visit to a donation center in Israel. Greeted by applause and cries of "God bless America," he dropped off his own contribution to benefit survivors who have lost everything and spoke with volunteers as the crowd sang and cheered.

The secretary also spoke with a 24-year-old American-Israeli dual citizen, Lior Gelbaum, who was attending the music festival is southern Israel that fell under attack with her boyfriend and is now volunteering at the center.

Through tears, she told Blinken that many of her friends had been killed or taken hostage.

"We were saved by miracle, but there are friends that we love..." she said before trailing off. "Thank you for being here. It's really important. And if there is any way to help, first priority, first priority is our friends and family that are still in Gaza."

"We're thinking of them and trying to do everything we can. We want to bring them home," Blinken responded. "I admire your strength."

Another volunteer told Blinken he had just come from the fourth funeral of a friend who lost a child and said all of the mourners had expressed that after concluding shiva -- the Jewish period of mourning -- they would rebuild the country. He remarked on the strong bond between the U.S. and Israel, saying they have a shared value of freedom.

The man said the aircraft carriers sent from the U.S. had been particularly inspiring to the Israeli people because it was a material sign of the U.S. standing behind the country in its time of need.

The White House announced on Monday that it had already begun sending munitions and military equipment to Israel, though John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, noted that the administration "fully [expects] there will be additional requests for security assistance for Israel as they continue to expend munitions in this fight."

At least 1,200 people have died and 2,900 others have been injured in Israel after Hamas launched a surprise incursion from air, land and sea on Saturday, Israeli authorities said. Palestinian authorities said at least 1,100 people have died and another 5,339 have been injured in Gaza in the wake of retaliatory airstrikes launched by the Israel Defense Forces. Twenty-seven Americans have also been confirmed dead, according to National security council spokesman John Kirby.