US State Dept Presser

US State Dept Presser – Oct 30, 2023

30 Min
<strong>US State Dept Presser – Oct 30, 2023</strong>

The US State Dept spokesperson Matthew Miller held a press briefing on Oct 30, 2023.

Excerpts with Q-A on South Asia tweaked to appear upfront.

MR MILLER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I would like to start with an update on our work to ensure that innocent civilians in Gaza have access to the lifesaving humanitarian assistance that they desperately need.  Yesterday, 45 trucks carrying food, water, and other humanitarian aid moved through the Rafah Crossing into Gaza, marking the highest single-day shipment to date and bringing the total number of trucks that have made it into Gaza to 150.  We aim to surpass that number today, tomorrow, and beyond. 

We recognize the needs are immense, and we want to see sustained daily deliveries of food, water, and medical supplies into Gaza.  And we will continue our relentless diplomatic efforts in partnership with Israel, Egypt, the United Nations, and international humanitarian partners to ensure just that. 

In addition, we are making every effort to restore access to essential services, including water.  Water is a fundamental human right, and its availability is crucial for the well-being of Gaza’s residents.  

We are actively engaged to ensure that communication networks in Gaza remain operational, recognizing the importance of keeping these channels open during such pivotal times.  We made clear to the Government of Israel over the weekend that communications networks needed to be restored, and we are pleased that they took steps to do that.  Maintaining these channels is not just about connectivity.  It is about ensuring that vital information flows, humanitarian coordination continues, and families can stay in touch. 

We are also making progress on ensuring the delivery of essential fuel supplies.  Fuel is essential to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the desalinization of water, and the provision of medical care, and we want to see it provided for those purposes as soon as possible.  I should note that, even as we work to provide fuel for these essential humanitarian services, Hamas continues to maintain extensive fuel reserves.  Rather than provide that fuel to hospitals or aid workers or for other civilian needs however, it continues to hoard it for the benefit of its fighters and to carry out its terrorist attacks against Israel. 

Finally, our work to ensure the safety of American citizens in Gaza continues to be our highest priority.  Secretary Blinken discussed both of these issues with the prime minister of Qatar this morning, and we will continue to work at the highest levels to secure the release of every hostage held by Hamas and the safe passage of those American citizens in Gaza who want to leave.  We had a number of diplomatic conversations about both of these matters over the weekend, as I said, through this morning, and we will continue them in the days to come. 

QUESTION:   Matt.  We have seen your statement over the weekend about attacks on opposition grand rally and violence in Bangladesh.  This violence basically orchestrated from the ground – report – this violence orchestrated by the police and internet shutdown prior to the rally began.  And since then, police have arrested hundreds of opposition politicians, including the secretary general of the main opposition, BNP, and the family members of the opposition leaders, and file hundred cases against them.  So how does the U.S. reacts on this situation?  And one more follow-up.

MR MILLER:  We condemn the political violence that took place in Dhaka on October 28th.  The reported killing of a police officer, a political activist, and the burning of a hospital and buses are unacceptable, as is violence against civilians, including journalists.  We encourage the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents at the October 28th rally and to hold those responsible for violence accountable.  The holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone – voters, political parties, the government

QUESTION:  In recent days, pro-government media outlets and their supporters have criticized U.S. Embassy Dhaka officials for meeting with the opposition political leaders and dissidents.  These reports suggested that the regime is spying on the U.S. diplomats.  Are you allowing the spying U.S. diplomats in the country, in Bangladesh? 

MR MILLER:  I will just say that diplomats talk to a wide variety of people – civil society organizations, media professionals, business leaders, cultural contributors, educators, and many other types of organizations and individuals.  That is what diplomats do as part of their everyday jobs, and we’ll   continue to do so.  

QUESTION:  Yeah, Mr. Miller, my name is Jacob Milton.  I’m working for Bangladeshi weekly newspaper and We are the People.  I have a question.  Last – October 28th, under the direction of Hasina Sheikh, the prime minister of Bangladesh, the armed cadre of (inaudible), wearing police uniform and using petrol bomb and gunpowder, killing innocent civilian, destroying the property of the government as well as public’s, and that ruling party is describing that those attacks took place by the opposition party.  And they are doing it for the last 14 years.  I think internationally everyone recognized that all of the attacks – call terror attack or anything, as you are mentioning some terror group – all over the world, it is the – one of the ruling party’s armed cadre, Chhatra League and Jubo League, and some other people.  Does America has any plan to designate them as a terrorist organization?  

MR MILLER:  So I think that everything I’ve said in response to the previous question on Bangladesh applies here, and I will say that we have made clear that we will take actions if necessary to support democracy in Bangladesh, and I would never preview those from the podium.  

QUESTION:  On the water issue in Gaza. How confident are you that you’re close to getting to where you think you need to be? 

MR MILLER:  So there are two things with respect to water: one, the delivery of water through Rafah, and part of that is increasing the number of trucks; and two is getting water lines —

QUESTION:  Yeah, but is that like bottles of —

MR MILLER:  I don’t know if it’s bottles, gallons, but that’s one way to provision water.  The other is —

QUESTION:  But – yes. 

MR MILLER:  The other is to make sure the water lines into Gaza are turned back on.  We’ve had one turned on already.  We have agreement to turn another water line back on into Gaza.  There are issues with parts of that line actually being damaged, and the Government of Israel and other partners are working to restore those water lines to ensure that they can deliver water. 

QUESTION:  Who?  Who is working on that? 

MR MILLER:  It’s being worked on on the Israeli side and then also worked on on the Gaza —

QUESTION:  The Israelis are going into Gaza City and —

MR MILLER:  No.  Not inside Gaza.  But it’s being worked on on the Israeli side, and then there is work ongoing on the Gaza side.  I can’t tell you who’s doing the actual planning.

QUESTION:  All right.  And then I’ll make this my – I’ll make this my last one.  But in terms of the communications, you said it’s important.  Obviously, it is important.  But if you accept the Israeli argument that this is kind of like a World War II point of view or a World War II situation and they have to eradicate Hamas, much like the Allies did with the Nazis – I mean, I don’t remember any – like in Dresden, was the U.S. working to restore —

MR MILLER:  I don’t —

QUESTION:  – communications so that the – when you restore communications in Gaza – and I understand why it’s important.  But I’m just wondering if this runs counter to what the Israelis tell you their objective is. 

MR MILLER:  So I would say it’s a different situation, obviously, in Dresden. 



QUESTION:  I mean, obviously it is.  But —

MR MILLER:  No, no, I want to – I do want to – it’s a fair question.  I want to answer it. 

QUESTION:  The point is – but the point is, is that if you restore comms for WFP and the Norwegian refugee people, and don’t you also restore communications to Hamas? 

MR MILLER:  So I’m not going to speak to Hamas’s operational communications.  I think they have ways of communicating other than just access to regular phone lines and the internet.  We’ve seen them use walkie-talkies that they used in their incursions into Israel, their terrorist attacks on October 7th.

I will say that this is one of the – has been one of the challenges since Israel launched its operations, which is ensuring that it can conduct legitimate military operations, which it has the right and – as we’ve said – the obligation to do, while ensuring that civilians are protected to the maximum extent possible.  And so we’ve made the judgment that for civilians to get the humanitarian assistance they need, people need to have the ability to distribute that aid; they need to have the ability to communicate; they need to be able to tell each other where to – tell civilians where to show up for aid.  

We need the ability to communicate with American citizens.  As I’ve said, we’ve been working to try and open Rafah gate.  If we are able to get Rafah gate open for American citizens, we need to be able to send them messages so they can get out.  

QUESTION:  All – and all of that is understandable.  But doesn’t it also mean that you allow Hamas to – you’re opening communications lines for Hamas as well?  

MR MILLER:  I will just say one of the things — 

QUESTION:  I mean, you don’t think so?  

MR MILLER:  One of the things Hamas has been able to do is maintain – they have their own fuel reserves, separate and apart from the fuel that comes in to civilians. 

QUESTION:  I’m not talking about fuel reserves.  

MR MILLER:  They have their own – what I’m saying is they have their own ability to communicate that we think they would — 

QUESTION:  So you don’t think that when the comms got shut down over the weekend, that that affected Hamas’ ability — 

MR MILLER:  I can’t – I just can’t offer assessment — 

QUESTION:  Well, how are you offering assessment now that — 

MR MILLER:  I can’t – what I’m – while I can’t offer an assessment of the military impact of that decision, I can say we thought it was important for civilian purposes that communications be restored. 

QUESTION:  All right.  Thank you. 

MR MILLER:  Shaun, go ahead. 

QUESTION:  Can I just follow up on communications?  I mean, the – for monitors, they said it’s being restored.  I mean, how confident are you that it’s going to be a full restoration of internet access and not just piecemeal?

MR MILLER:  I would say that always, in an ongoing military situation when you have military operations being conducted, when there’s communications infrastructure, obviously keeping it maintained will be a concern, will be a process.  But it’s something that we’re working to do. 

QUESTION:  And can you say a little bit just more in terms of how this was conveyed to the Israelis?  Was it through this department?  Was it – how was it conveyed?  And is there any sort of assurance that it’s not – that internet access is going to be preserved going forward? 

MR MILLER:  I don’t want to speak to the exact communications other than to say that we have maintained extensive conversations with the Israeli government from day one, both from the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department, and – I won’t say – I won’t speak to it further than that. 

QUESTION:  And then long term, whether that’s – whether you’re fairly certain this is going to happen again in terms of — 

MR MILLER:  Again, there’s an ongoing military operation being conducted, so it’s difficult to say with any level of faith what the ramifications of that military operation will be when you see significant strikes, when you see ground operations, when you see other events that, of course, could take down communications infrastructure.  Our – what we believe is that communications access needs to be maintained for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, so families can communicate with each other.  So as we move forward, as we did this weekend, we will work to ensure that it’s maintained. 

Go ahead. 

QUESTION:  We understand that State had a rep in Doha over the weekend.  Can you tell us anything about status on the release of American hostages?  

MR MILLER:  So I will say that Secretary Blinken discussed this – as I said in my opening remarks – with the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar this morning, someone who he has been in close contact with.  It was one of his first calls on October 7th.  We, of course, traveled there and met with them.  And in that conversation, they covered a number of things, but two of the most important were, one, securing the release of hostages, and two, securing the safe passage of American citizens out of Gaza.  

There continue to be significant hurdles to doing both.  Obviously with respect to hostages, Hamas has not yet agreed to release anyone other than the four hostages, including the two American citizens.  And with respect to American citizens who want to leave Gaza, they continue to not operate their side of the Rafah Gate.  So what we have done is try to work with partners who have relationships with Hamas to impress upon them the need to do both.  I won’t speak to the details of those negotiations; we don’t think it’s useful to do so publicly.  But it is a high priority for us, obviously.  

QUESTION:  There’s sort of widespread reporting now that the release of the hostages – the negotiations have stalemated.  Are you going to continue to send a rep to Doha if no more Americans are freed? 

MR MILLER:  I – we will continue to work to secure the release of American hostages every day.  I don’t want to make public pronouncements or play pundit on the likelihood of doing that versus the likelihood of not being able to do it.  I will just say we’ll continue to work on it.  There is no higher priority, from the President on down.  The President has personally worked on this question.  The Secretary has personally worked on this question.  Others from the White House and from here have personally worked on it, and it will remain one of our top priorities.  

QUESTION:  Follow-up question on that just real quick: Could you characterize your – the U.S.’s assessment of these ongoing negotiations?  Are you still just as optimistic?  Do you want to push back on the idea that it’s stalemated? 

MR MILLER:  I don’t want to characterize them at all.  I don’t think it’s useful for me to do so publicly.  As you’ll know, from coming to briefings last week, there are a number of sensitivities,  as you can imagine, when it comes to negotiations to try to secure the release of hostages.  And this is just one area where I think other than – I will just say that the less said, the better.  

QUESTION:  Just to follow up on something.  You mentioned progress on fuel.  Does that mean the Israelis have agreed to allow fuel in?  And sort of when and how can we expect that?

MR MILLER:  I, again, don’t want to speak to details other than that we have made progress.  The Israelis do have significant concerns about diversion.  It is literally – the fuel that is provided to Gaza is fuel that Hamas uses to launch rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel, so they do have legitimate concerns about the diversion of fuel.  We are trying to work through those concerns and establish a reliable delivery mechanism in the way that we have established a reliable delivery mechanism for food and water and medical assistance.  We’re making progress on it.  I don’t have an announcement to make today, but I would hope to do – to be able to do so in the coming days.

QUESTION:  And more broadly, just as the operation is sort of – has started over the weekend, the expanded operation by the Israelis, I wondered:  Are you concerned about the sort of scenario that I think has been talked about quite a lot that the Israelis are sort of going to enter a quagmire in Gaza, and this is going to basically drag on and sort of play into Hamas’s hands in that as – if this drags on for a long time, there are a lot of civilian casualties, internationally there’s more and more disapproval of what Israel is doing.  I wonder if that – is that a concern as this begins for the U.S.?

MR MILLER:  So I will say as a first thing I will maintain my position of not kind of offering assessments of their military operations or any kind of prognostication about how they might proceed, other than to say that in our communications with them we have talked to them about the importance of having tangible objectives that they can actually meet and a plan to meet those objectives, and at the same time have said the same thing privately to them that we have said publicly, which is the need to protect civilian lives as they conduct their operations and to operate consistent with the laws of war, international humanitarian law.

But I will say that there is another point to that larger question, which is we think one of the most important things we can do while Israel conducts these operations is to perform all this work I started by – I started this briefing talking about, which is to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.  And I should note it is the United States of America that has been able to deliver these agreements to get food and water and medicine in.  We’ve worked with the Government of Israel, we’ve worked with the Government of Egypt, we’ve worked with the United Nations and humanitarian organizations.  But it is the work by the President, who has invested real time and energy on it, and the Secretary, who has done the same, and, of course, our Special Envoy David Satterfield on the ground, who has been able to broker these agreements and not just the agreements but work out a lot of the operational details to get food, water, medicine on these trucks inspected and get them delivered in, and is working hard to get those numbers increased so they’re – we can have sustained deliveries, even greater than the number that we had yesterday.

So I will say, from our purposes, we think the best thing that we can do to address that larger question that you asked is to ensure that to the maximum extent possible civilians in Gaza are protected and they have the lifesaving humanitarian assistance they need.

QUESTION:  Sure.  Just lastly, I wondered – we can come back to a discussion we had last week about following the laws of war.  I know that you made some – I think your view is that the Israelis are not targeting civilians, but you haven’t got an assessment on whether overall the operations are following the laws of war.  I wondered, in the context of that, cutting off communications as the operation began, does that potentially speak to the issue of – as you mentioned, the Israelis have given warning to civilians, but if you cut all the communications in a place, then doesn’t that make it more difficult for them to follow through on the – what the Geneva Conventions would say, which is that you need to make as many efforts possible to avoid hitting civilians?

And just an additional point on that, the – Netanyahu’s comments on Saturday bring up sort of biblical reference to Amalek.  I wondered if that also weighs on how the U.S. sees this as – when you’re – if you’re citing these kinds of biblical verses or making allusions to those historical facts, does that detract from your sense that the Israelis are going in here as a professional military trying to root out a terrorist group rather than something a little broader?

MR MILLER:  So I will say just one small detail on the first, they do have other methods they’ve used to notify civilians.  They’ve dropped leaflets and other things in the past.  But we do think that this is another one of the reasons why communications networks do need to be open and functional.  It’s for these very real humanitarian purposes.

And then just with respect to the overall question, again, the Israeli Defense Forces are a professional military that have been doing this over a long time.  They’re one of the most professional militaries in the region, and all we can do is continue to make clear to them that it is our expectation that they operate with the highest degree of professionalism and that they operate in full compliance with the laws of the war, and we’ve made that clear from the President on down.


MR MILLER:  Yeah, Said, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Very quickly, just to follow up on Simon’s point on the goal, the endgame, are you aware that – is it clear in your mind that Israel’s goals – are they clear in your mind?  Do you know exactly what they are?

MR MILLER:  We do.  They’ve been quite clear about that, which is they want to ensure that Hamas can no longer govern —


MR MILLER:  Let me just finish, Said – that Hamas can no longer govern in Gaza and that they can no longer use Gaza as a place to launch attacks against innocent civilians in Israel.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So we are likely to expect this war to go on until the last Hamas person is completely neutralized, correct?

MR MILLER:  I am not —

QUESTION:  No, I’m trying to —

MR MILLER:  I will let the Government of Israel speak to their military campaign.

QUESTION:  All right.  Let me ask you on the numbers.  We talked about numbers.  Today, your colleagues at the White House, I think, John Kirby, talked about – and even John Sullivan spoke about thousands and so on.  We went back and forth the other day.  But in fact there is a way to determine this.  Because there is the – the Israelis keep records of all Palestinians – dead, alive, born, death certificates and so on.  It’s called COGAT; they have their registry.  Everyone that is born is registered with the Israelis; everyone that dies is registered with the Israelis.  They have identification numbers.  You can compare those IDs that were published by the ministry of health in Gaza to the actual figures.  Would the United States do that, to look at it, to substantiate these figures that we hear?  


QUESTION:  I mean, the figures are staggering.  Eighty-four hundred – that’s a lot of people.

MR MILLER:  Let me – let me just say this:  We don’t have the ability to offer independent assessments of what’s happening on the ground in Gaza, because we do not have people there to conduct —


MR MILLER:  — let me finish – to conduct that type of assessment.  But we recognize that thousands of innocent civilians have been killed.  That includes a significant number of children.  Every one of those losses is a tragedy, whatever the number is, whatever – and whether it’s the number that the – that has been released from Gaza or whether it’s some other number, every one of them is a tragedy, and we mourn the loss of every one of those civilians.  Which is why we continue to emphasize that Israel must conduct all of its operations consistent with the laws of war, and why, as I’ve said, we’re working to deliver this humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

QUESTION:  I have a couple more questions before the – I want to ask you about – the Red Crescent issued a statement that Israel is warning the Al-Quds hospital and Shifa hospital to vacate, and they had been bombing around it, and so on.  Does that raise your concern?  Would you tell the Israelis, “Don’t bomb hospitals”?  Because sometimes these patients cannot be moved.

MR MILLER:  So as I would – as I said a minute ago, we expect Israel to operate consistent with international law, including the need to take feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.  And of course, hospitals and other sites are protected civilian infrastructure.

QUESTION:  And my last question is on the West Bank.  There has been an upsurge – an uptick in settler violence.  They have guns, American guns that have been distributed to them and so on.  They forced people out of a couple of villages and so on.  I wonder if you’re following this, on this issue, or everybody just caught in what’s happening in Gaza.

MR MILLER:  We are following it, and in fact you heard the President speak to this publicly last week.

QUESTION:  Right.  I’m saying in terms of actual steps on the ground.

MR MILLER:  We – yeah, no – I – let me just say we consistently and unequivocally condemn all acts of terrorism and violence and the targeting of civilians, including the recent attacks by Israeli extremist settlers in the West Bank.  Israel must take measures to protect Palestinians from such attacks and to hold accountable any settlers who carry out attacks, as well as any members of the Israeli Defense Forces who stand by or fail to intervene when these attacks occur.  And I will just say that we have made clear – privately to the Israeli Government and publicly – that these attacks are unacceptable, they need to stop, and those responsible need to be held accountable.

QUESTION:  I have three questions.  First, Save the Children Fund, which is a U.S.-funded NGO, said that more children in Gaza were killed than all conflicts combined since 2019, and that’s in three weeks.  So does this number translate to you, as you said, that Israel is actually abiding by international law and not targeting civilians?

MR MILLER:  So I’m going to go back to the thing we have said before, which is the thing that makes this so difficult is that Hamas continues to hide its military infrastructure, its terrorist infrastructure, inside civilian locations.  They bury – they bury their operations in tunnels under hospitals, under schools.  They keep headquarters in residential apartment buildings.  But if you listen to what Jake Sullivan, the President’s National Security Advisor, said on television yesterday, while this heightens the burden for Israel, it does not absolve them of the responsibility to act consistent with the laws of war.  That is our clear policy.  We have made it clear to them privately, and we made it clearly publicly on a number of occasions.

QUESTION:  I want to give you just a small analogy for a moment – to the second, which is very simple.  So if you want to shoot a bad guy and this bad guy went and grabbed three kids from the street and put them in front of them, do you shoot the bad guy with the kids?

MR MILLER:  I’m not going to engage in kind of hypotheticals —

QUESTION:  Okay, sorry.  

MR MILLER:  I’ll – I’m just — 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) the same question.  I’m sorry.

MR MILLER:  Go ahead, Shannon.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On efforts to – assuming the administration still says it’s just Hamas holding Americans in Gaza back from leaving – those 500, 600 estimated there – is the administration doing anything new to either incentivize or pressure Hamas to allow outbound foreign nationals?

MR MILLER:  So just as I won’t discuss the details of our work to secure the release of hostages publicly, I’m not going to discuss that – our work on that publicly, other than to say it is the subject of ongoing conversations, it was the subject of the Secretary’s call with the prime minister, foreign minister of Qatar earlier today.  Hamas is making a number of demands before they’ll allow people to leave Gaza.  I’m not going to speak to those demands, but it’s something we’re continuing to try to work through.  Just as we believe they ought to release all the hostages they are holding, we believe they ought to release or let leave all the American citizens and other foreign nationals who are being basically forced to remain in Gaza against their will because Hamas won’t uphold its responsibility to operate its side of the Rafah Crossing to allow people to move through the crossing into Egypt.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  And the State Department has also – a follow-up – I can – the – Israel is – the last government-led charter flight is going to leave Israel tomorrow.  And now is this because there is no demand for such charter flights anymore?  Is there a different reason?  Might more be out in the future?

MR MILLER:  It’s – it is purely a demand issue.  We had a charter flight leave yesterday that had five people on it.  We have consistently seen the demand for our charter flights go down to where we had a lot of flights going out with 50 percent capability.  I think the number of seats that we have offered, we’ve had something like 25 percent of them actually be filled.  So there just – there continue to be ways to leave Israel commercially.  We’ve offered a number of ways over the past few weeks to leave through our charter flights.  We have notified everyone that the charter flight tomorrow is the last one that we are currently planning, so if they do want to leave, now is the time to do it; don’t wait for another flight.  But we will always conduct assessments in real time about whether there is additional demand, whether circumstances change on the ground, and if we need to make additional arrangements, we of course will be open to doing so. 

QUESTION:  Sorry.  Five people were on a — 

MR MILLER:  Five people on —

QUESTION:  How big of a – how big a plane was it? 

MR MILLER:  I don’t know, but it wasn’t a small one.  It was a regular commercial-size charter flight that went out with five people on it.  So you can see why we would start to —

QUESTION:  So it’s a – it was like a full-size passenger plane with only five people? 

MR MILLER:  Yeah, yeah. 

QUESTION:  It wasn’t like a private jet. 


QUESTION:  It was a —

MR MILLER:  It was a full size. 


MR MILLER:  So you could see why we would revisit the circumstances of operating these charter flights. 

QUESTION:  Well, yeah.  But – so wait, does that mean that – and I’m sorry to get into the weeds here – did the five people get charged the pro rata share?  Or how does that —

MR MILLER:  I very much doubt that we are charging them the full cost of that.  It’s the —

QUESTION:  Or like 737 or something?

MR MILLER:  It is the responsibility of the United States Government to assist in some of these circumstances. 

QUESTION:  All right. 

MR MILLER:  They are charged a fare, but I doubt it is the – is that cost. 

QUESTION:  All right.  Let me just ask you one more thing, because you said that it is the United States of America that has managed to get the amount of aid into Gaza since the beginning of the war.  You said about 150 trucks.  

MR MILLER:  Yeah. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Tomorrow, the Secretary and Secretary Austin are going up to the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify about the administration’s request for – at least in terms of Israel – I think it’s $14.3 billion for Israel. 

MR MILLER:  Correct. 

QUESTION:  Uh-huh.  And that’s on top of what the U.S. already provides Israel, which is $3.8, roughly, billion a year.  How much have you pledged to Gaza aid? 

MR MILLER:  So there is – we’ve pledged $100 million already for Gaza aid.  But there is a significant amount – I don’t have the number at my fingertips – there is a significant amount in that request to Congress that is humanitarian assistance for Gaza.  I’m happy to follow up and get the exact number. 


MR MILLER:  But there is – in that request, it’s not just funding for Ukraine or funding for the Israeli military or funding to secure our border.  There is also a request for humanitarian assistance. 

QUESTION:  Really?  

MR MILLER:  Yeah.  But —

QUESTION:  Is it more than a billion dollars? 

MR MILLER:  I don’t know.  But let me just say, when we – I don’t want to lose the point.  We have —

QUESTION:  I don’t want to lose the point either. 

MR MILLER:  No, no, no.  But I —

QUESTION:  But, I mean, you’re saying that you guys are responsible entirely —

MR MILLER:  No, no.  I – let me just make —

QUESTION:  – for getting aid into Gaza, which you admit is not enough. 

MR MILLER:  Let me make —

QUESTION:  And it’s 150 trucks in the last three weeks. 

MR MILLER:  Let me make clear —

QUESTION:  And you pledged $100 million for it. 

MR MILLER:  Let me make clear what I —

QUESTION:  Which is not nothing.  But it’s not $14.3 billion.

MR MILLER:  Let me make clear what I meant by those comments.  It is not the United States that is providing all of the food, water, medical assistance on those trucks.  There’s no shortage of countries in the region, in international humanitarian networks and organizations, who want to provide humanitarian assistance-   they have stepped up, and the United States has stepped up as well. 

QUESTION:  Have they? 

MR MILLER:  They have.  But I will say what the United States was able to do is secure agreement with Israel and the Government of Egypt.  That has been the breakthrough that we’ve been able to achieve.  It’s not really a question – or it’s not the only question of the amount of food and amount of water on those trucks.  It’s getting agreement and working through the operational questions to get those in there. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Fair enough. 

MR MILLER:  And that’s what the United States has been able to do. 

QUESTION:  Fair enough, yes.  Getting them in there is a priority.  But it is also the amount that’s getting in. 

MR MILLER:  I don’t have to remind – I don’t have to remind you that —

QUESTION:  And if you say that you got 45 trucks in today, or yesterday, and you’re hoping maybe —


QUESTION:  – that another 45 will go in today, and there – but there have only been 150 in the last three weeks, and you’re giving them $100 million, and yet you’re – the Secretary and Secretary Austin are going to go up and ask for $14.3 billion to go to Israel —


QUESTION:  – this year, on top of —

MR MILLER:  Again —

QUESTION:  – what the U.S. already gives them. 

MR MILLER:  Again, there’s humanitarian assistance also included in that package.  There are no shortage of other countries who want to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.  But I don’t think I have to remind you that before we secured this agreement, there were hundreds of trucks lined up in Egypt outside Rafah that couldn’t go in. So, it was the leadership of the United States that has gotten those – that gate open and gotten them in.

QUESTION:  Can you be more specific on the holdup at Rafah?  Last week you said that armed militants were blocking the exit of Americans at times, and at other times there was no one there to physically open the gate.  As of today, what is Hamas doing to obstruct their exit?

MR MILLER:  I don’t know what they’ve done on the ground today.  We always have imperfect information that comes to us about what’s happening in Gaza where we don’t have anyone operating.  But that has been – it has been one of those two things that has prevented people from getting out.  Since we started working on this problem, Hamas has made a number of demands, and we’re trying to work through the issue.

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up question about this funding request.  In the bit where you talk about international assistance or the humanitarian part, it says that some of this humanitarian programming – the “crisis could result in displacement across borders and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving [program] requirements outside of Gaza, including Israel, West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.”  Palestinians point to this particular phrase when they talk about their fears that there is going to be further displacement outside of Gaza.

So I’m wondering, when you put this request, were you anticipating that that might happen?

MR MILLER:  I don’t think that we could be any more clear about our position on this question.  You saw the President speak to it yesterday, that he opposes the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.  You saw the Secretary say it when he was in the region, when he saw that – said that this question is a non-starter.  We have had to make clear, when you have regional instability like we have here, we have to make reasonable planning expectations for the possibility of refugees.  But we have made quite clear that our position is that Palestinians deserve the right to stay on Palestinian land.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  A couple questions.  On Makhachkala, what is the administration’s position on what exactly is going on there in Dagestan?  And what steps do you expect the Russian Government to take to prevent this from happening or —

MR MILLER:  So I would say we condemn the violent anti-Semitic events that have been reported in Russia threatening Israelis and Jews.  I saw the video, as I’m sure all of you did.  It looked like a pogrom to me.  We call on Russian authorities to publicly condemn these violent protests, to hold those – to hold anyone involved accountable, and to ensure the safety of Israelis and Jews in Russia.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On Iran as well, based on what you have seen on the ground, do you think the message that you are sending out to Iran is being well received in Iran?  And if not, then what happens?

MR MILLER:  I’m not going to speak to what the Iranians are received, I will – or what the Iranians have received or how they have interpreted the messages.  I will say that we have been very clear, we have made quite clear, that we will defend United States interests and United States personnel in the region.  You saw us conduct military operations last week to reinforce that fact.  We have made this clear directly to the Iranian Government and we hope that they will choose a path of de-escalation.  

QUESTION:  And if I may, one more on China.  (Inaudible) multiple meetings between Secretary and his colleague as well as Special Representative Kim had earlier a conversation with his colleague.  Does the Secretary believe that China can be enticed away from supporting Russia in Ukraine?  Or in other words, does – do you guys believe that Beijing’s patience towards Putin’s – whatever he is doing in Ukraine is not limited?

MR MILLER:  Again, I – just as I wouldn’t make any assessments about what Iran may or may not do, I’m not going to make any assessments about what China may or may not do.  I will speak for the United States and say that in his meetings with Wang Yi on Thursday and Friday, the Secretary did raise the issue of Russia’s war against Ukraine and made clear that if China wants to play a productive path forward, we would welcome China doing so.  We have said that publicly, Ukraine has said publicly that they would welcome China playing a constructive role.

The same thing holds true, by the way, for the Middle East, where one of the things that the Secretary raised in his issue with Wang Yi is the past few weeks after he had an initial phone call with him from Saudi Arabia when we were in the region, the fact that China maintains communications channels with a number of countries in the region, and anything that China can do to lower tensions would be something that would be helpful.  And we found it to be a constructive engagement. 

QUESTION:  Can you assess the actions of Moscow, of the Russian Government (inaudible) on this?  And Russia publicly has blamed outsiders for supposedly fomenting the unrest.

MR MILLER:  I’ve seen their comments about blaming Ukraine.  That is absurd, obviously.  I don’t have any assessment to offer.  I’ve seen reports that they may be arresting people.  I don’t know the full extent of the actions that they will take.  I will say that we believe they should hold anyone responsible accountable. 

QUESTION:  Two questions.  The Israeli ambassador to South Korea disclosed evidence that Hamas is using not only Iranian-made weapons, but also North Korea-made weapons.  What is the United States’s view on this?  How do you – concern about it?

MR MILLER:  Well, so, Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization and we oppose anyone providing them with anything they can use to carry out their terrorist activities.

QUESTION:  Matt.  In light of the October 28 Reuters news report on Turkish President Erdogan’s statement that Israel is an illegal occupier and that Hamas is not a terrorist organization.  Has President Biden condemned President Erdogan’s antisemitic comments, which fuel a hatred of Israel?  And I have a follow-up.  

MR MILLER:  Well, I think we have been pretty clear about our assessment of Hamas, that they are, in fact, a brutal terrorist organization.  You saw them carry out a terrorist attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, including children and elderly people on October 7th, including American citizens.  And we will continue to be quite clear about that and make our views known to everyone around the world.  

QUESTION:  The follow-up is:  In what ways can President Biden educate the world of Israel’s right to all their ancestral land promised in the Jewish Torah book Deuteronomy and help dispel the myth of Israel as the illegal occupier?  

MR MILLER:  So I’m not going to speak to biblical references.  I will say that we will continue to make clear we support Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s right to defend itself, but also that we support a two-state solution as the ultimate resolution to issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  

QUESTION:  On the statements by Mr. Erdogan against Israel and in favour of Hamas, I mean, I have an easy question.  Do you like these statements or not?  Why you don’t say it?

MR MILLER:  I think I made pretty clear our assessment of Hamas, and it does differ from the one that was offered.  

QUESTION:  But do you have any problem that your ally Erdogan is saying that Israel is terrorists and not– and not Hamas?  

MR MILLER:  I think our views are pretty well known on this question  that Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization.  I don’t think anyone is in doubt about what we think about this situation.  And we will continue to engage with all of our allies on — 

QUESTION:  And another question.  

QUESTION:  Three senators are asking to expel Türkiye from NATO, and I see that Senator Scott says that Hamas murders innocent babies, et cetera, et cetera.  Erdogan has again shown that his interests don’t align with those of the U.S.  We need to seriously consider Türkiye membership in NATO if it’s willing to side with Iran-backed terrorists.  Your comment, please, sir?  

MR MILLER:  So I would say that Türkiye, despite our disagreements on this question, has been a valuable NATO Ally.  We look forward to continuing to work with them to strengthen NATO, and that includes securing Sweden’s quick accession to NATO, something that we know is now pending in the Turkish parliament.  So there are obviously – this is not the first issue with which we’ve disagreed with the leadership of Türkiye, but we still find them to be a productive and helpful NATO Ally.  And we’ll continue to work with them on the things we agree – on the things on which we agree, and make clear to them when we have disagreements.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you, Matt.  There are some efforts in the Iraqi parliament – they trying to set up a session behind closed doors to discuss a decision to expel the U.S. forces and also closing down the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  Do you have any concern on that, to that move?  And adding to that, Hadi al-Amiri, Badr Organization leader, that they are part of the Iraqi government – today he said that there’s no justification, no reasons for the U.S. forces to stay in Iraq, and we should let them go out.  What’s your comment on that?  

MR MILLER:  So I don’t have any way to judge the veracity of the first report you said.  I will say that our forces continue to operate in Iraq to prevent the re-emergence of ISIS, which is an important counterterrorism priority, both for the United States and for other countries in the region.  And I don’t have any changes to announce in our posture, which by the way, would come from the Pentagon anyway, not here.

QUESTION:  And – another question.  According to a senior DOD official, from October 17 to date there were 23 attacks on the U.S. forces in the region.  And 14 of these attacks – 14 of these attacks were – happened in Iraq, and some of the attacks in Syria were conducted by the Iraqi militia.  Why the U.S. hesitated to targeting the Iraqi militia groups backed by Iran?  And to prevent you —  

MR MILLER:  So I would say – comments regarding DOD – comments made by DOD officials and comments about DOD operations should probably be presented to DOD, not to the State Department.  However, I will say the President has made clear that we will take every action that is necessary to defend U.S. forces, U.S. interests anywhere in the world, and I’ll leave it at that.  

QUESTION:  Thank you.  The UAE requested a UN Security Council emergency meeting today to seek a binding resolution demanding a humanitarian pause in Gaza.  What is the U.S. position on this call, this resolution?  And is there any update on the U.S. position on either humanitarian pause or a ceasefire in Gaza?  

MR MILLER:  So I’m not going to comment on the resolution, other than that our Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield continues to work to try to reach consensus, something that we hoped we’d be able to do last week when our resolution that had majority support inside the UN Security Council was vetoed by Russia and China.  But as the Secretary made clear last week, we think that humanitarian pauses are something that should be considered, if they would allow hostages to be released and transit out of Gaza.  We think they could be considered for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and we’ll continue to make that clear.  

QUESTION:  And will the U.S. allow Gazan refugees to enter the United States?  Are there plans to admit Gazan refugees into the U.S.? 

MR MILLER:  Again, we believe that the people of Gaza want to stay in Gaza.  That’s what we’ve consistently heard from Palestinian leadership and others in the region, and we believe that they have the right to do so. 

QUESTION:  I have two questions on Russia.  So the Russian foreign ministry said last week that they received a set of proposals on the Strategic Stability Dialogue and arms control from the United States.  Do you have anything on this?  Do you have any details? 

MR MILLER:  I don’t, but I’d be happy to take it back and follow up. 

QUESTION:  And one more — 

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Matt.  Pakistan’s envoy at the UN Mr. Munir Akram, said that this whole Israel-Palestine issue did not start since October 7th; it has been there since last 50 years.  Many allies of the U.S. are asking for ceasefire.   And at the United Nations, 120 countries asked for the ceasefire.  Don’t you think ceasefire is a good way to at least move forward the current situation?  

MR MILLER:  We do not, because we believe that Israel has the right, the obligation, the responsibility to defend itself against those brutal terrorist attacks.  The United States of America – every country in the world, if it was attacked and a terrorist organization was sitting across its border ready to launch new attacks, would want to carry out operations to conduct those.  That continues to be our position.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)