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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Hamas terrorist attacks

House to get classified Israel briefing

Top Biden administration officials will brief House members on the war in Israel at 8:30 a.m., the first such gathering for all lawmakers in a classified setting since Hamas launched a series of terrorist attacks against Israel this past weekend.

We expect lawmakers to learn more about Israel’s plans for striking back against Hamas in the coming days and what the United States will do to help. On Sunday, administration officials told senators they should prepare their constituents for the likelihood of a long and protracted conflict — one that will require additional U.S. assistance at some point.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that he’ll soon ask Congress for new funding and authorities to assist Israel and other U.S. allies under attack, such as Ukraine. We reported earlier Tuesday about a potential effort to link Israel aid with a Ukraine package, and how that could be a heavy lift on the Hill.

It’s unclear what exactly would be included in an Israel-focused proposal, but administration officials told senators already that it would center on precision-guided missiles as well as a replenishment of the Iron Dome missile defense system — a key lifeline for Israel.

House members will almost certainly question the administration about the still unknown number of Americans who have been taken hostage by Hamas, as well as those who remain unaccounted for. Some lawmakers have suggested that Biden should send U.S. special operations forces into Gaza to rescue the American hostages.

At least 14 Americans were killed in the attacks and 20 Americans are still unaccounted for, with the numbers expected to rise. More than 1,000 Israelis were killed, with thousands more injured. More than 150 Israelis have been abducted as well.

The administration’s briefers will be Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, acting Pentagon policy chief Sasha Baker and senior intelligence official Morgan Muir, according to an invite we obtained.

Lawmakers have indicated they’re also interested in learning more about how the Israeli government was seemingly caught off guard by the assault, which appeared to be meticulously planned by Hamas.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) told us on Tuesday that there will be plenty of time for an after-action review, but the immediate focus should be on “rooting out Hamas leadership and bringing them to justice.”

Some Republicans are calling on the administration to immediately freeze the $6 billion in funding that the Iranian government recently gained access to as part of a prisoner swap, citing Tehran’s support — both material and otherwise — for Hamas and its affiliates. The Biden administration has maintained that this funding isn’t for Iran’s government but rather for the humanitarian needs of its people.

But several Democrats have broken with the president on this issue. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who’s facing a difficult reelection fight, issued a statement Tuesday evening calling for the assets to be re-frozen while the United States determines Iran’s level of involvement in the Hamas terror attacks.

Here’s Tester:

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who’s also in-cycle, similarly called for the money to be frozen, citing Iran’s backing of Hamas.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the United States doesn’t yet have “specific information that ties Iran” to the Hamas attacks but added that the administration is “looking to acquire further intelligence” about that.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) were in Israel on a congressional delegation Tuesday.

— Andrew Desiderio

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