Department Press Briefing – April 15, 2024 – United States Department of State

1:07 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Let me start with some opening comments on the Middle East. This weekend, Iran launched an unprecedented air attack on Israel. Ultimately, the defensive effort to intercept Iran’s drones and missiles was effective, successfully preventing what could have been a significant loss of life. This was a shared success, and the United States is proud to have played a critical role in it.

Over the past two days following the attack, the President and the Secretary have consulted extensively with partners in the region and around the world. Secretary Blinken spoke yesterday with the foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and he continues to make calls with foreign counterparts today.

We will continue to emphasize the importance that the international community act as a united front in condemning such reckless escalatory acts. Such behavior threatens to destabilize the region and endangers all its people, and Iran’s attack violated the sovereignty of several states in the region.

I also want to be absolutely clear: The United States commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct. Our contributions to Israel’s defense against Iran are a clear manifestation of that commitment. So too are our efforts to advance a ceasefire of at least six weeks in Gaza, which would secure the release of all remaining hostages and create a pathway to a more enduring peace. We remain committed to advancing that work and providing lasting peace and security for Israel, for the Palestinian people, and for the broader region, and we will continue to engage regional and international partners urgently on these areas in the coming days.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, that’s it? I thought you said you had a couple of different comments. That seemed like one. Okay, but that’s fine. On this –

MR MILLER: One topic; several comments, one topic.

QUESTION: Gotcha. On this, just logistically, who has the Secretary spoken to other than the Iraqis, obviously?

MR MILLER: He has a – I will have a list of the – or readouts of those coming. I don’t have any to read out right now, but have readouts coming throughout the day.

QUESTION: Has he —

MR MILLER: He’s got calls scheduled for this afternoon and has completed some already, but I need to make sure those are ones we’re publicly reading out.

QUESTION: Okay. And I know you guys don’t want to talk about this, but when you say that the Iranian attack violated the sovereignty of several countries in the region, which countries are you talking about? And which countries actually took action?

MR MILLER: So with respect to the first question, so the attack violated not just obviously Israel’s sovereignty, but you saw missiles launch from Iran and fly over other countries in the region.

QUESTION: Such as?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to those; I’ll defer to my colleague —

QUESTION: All right, okay, but let’s just say —

MR MILLER: Hold on, I will – no, hold on —

QUESTION: Let’s just say —

MR MILLER: Let me say – I will defer to my —

QUESTION: They didn’t fly over Australia, so where —

MR MILLER: I will – so —

QUESTION: — where did they fly over?

MR MILLER: I will say two things. One, you can look at the flight path. But two, I will defer to my Pentagon – colleagues at the Pentagon, who are more appropriately situated to speak to that question. And when it comes to responding to that attack and work to assist Israel in its defense, I will let any other countries that were involved speak to their own —

QUESTION: Well, are there any that you care to – or not care —

MR MILLER: I will – I will speak on behalf of the United States, and let any other country speak for itself.

QUESTION: Okay. And so your understanding, though, is that there was at least one Patriot missile battery that brought down a missile in Erbil that was going over Iraqi airspace?

MR MILLER: So with any of those types of questions, I’m going to defer to my colleagues at the Pentagon. It’s just – I’m just not going to —

QUESTION: Yeah, but they said this already.

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to —

QUESTION: So you can’t say that?

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak to military matters from here. One, it’s not appropriate; two, I’d probably get it wrong. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. All right. I’m done. Oh, well, I have some stuff on Iraq, but bilateral stuff.

MR MILLER: Okay. Yeah, okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Matt. So you’ve been – U.S. has been cautioning Israel about its retaliation. I’m wondering what’s the most recent steer you’re getting from Israel on what kind of further retaliation they’re going to —

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations. When we have talked to Israel we have made clear, as we demonstrated on Saturday, that we are committed to their defense. And of course, we are – continue to make clear to everyone that we talk to that we want to see de-escalation, that we don’t want to see this conflict further escalated, we don’t want to see a wider regional war. That’s something that’s been the goal of this administration since October 7th and we have worked to achieve. But beyond that, I don’t want to get into private diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: What would be – in U.S. view, what would be an acceptable or unacceptable retaliation?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak to hypotheticals.

QUESTION: And – okay, let me go at this a little bit more. It’s taken you months to convince Israel on a number of things, like aid to Gaza, how they’re conducting their military operation in Gaza. What makes you think they’re going to heed your warning this time?

MR MILLER: So again, I’m not going to always accept the premise of the question, so don’t take that in my response. Israel is a sovereign country. They have to make their own decisions about how best to defend themselves. What we always try to do is provide our best advice as a long-time friend of Israel and a long-time ally and partner of Israel, and that’s what we’ve done since October 7th across a broad range of fronts. It’s what we have done over the weekend.

And so what we demonstrated over the weekend is that our commitment to Israel’s defense is clear, and it is ironclad, and we back that up not just with words and with action. And we will continue to make that clear, while at the same time ensuring that everyone knows that we are committed to de-escalation in the region, and that’s the policy we’re trying to pursue.

QUESTION: All right. On the UN, Robert Wood said yesterday, in the coming days and in consultation with other members, U.S. “will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable here at the United Nations.” Can you give, like, any clues on what that might include?

MR MILLER: So we have been consulting with partners on this very question over the past several days. When I read out the Secretary’s calls, one of the things that he – we have talked about in those calls are any further actions to hold Iran accountable for its behavior. You have seen this administration take action since day one to hold Iran accountable. We have put more than 500 sanctions in place on Iran and Iranian entities. And we will continue to hold them accountable, but I don’t have any specific measures to announce today.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Understood that you don’t know exactly when Israel’s going to go ahead, or don’t feel the need to share it. But is the U.S. expectation that Israel will share with the U.S. before they actually retaliate?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to get into those private conversations between our two countries.

QUESTION: The U.S. hasn’t asked to look at what their plans are before they go ahead with —

MR MILLER: We are in close contact with Israel at a number of different levels – at the White House, between this building and Israeli counterparts, as well as with the Pentagon. But as to the substance of those conversations, I think I’ll keep them private.

QUESTION: And then obviously the U.S. was hand in hand with Israel defending against this attack over the weekend. Can you speak to how you think that might impact the way that Israel responds? Do you think that they felt supported by the U.S. and regional allies as they were under assault that might make them feel like they’re in a better place today than they would have been defending themselves on their own?

MR MILLER: So I can’t speak for Israel. I would never want to speak for another country; I’ll speak for the United States. But I will say what you saw over the – over the weekend, and really it’s something that started before the weekend, was a coordinated response to defend Israel, something that we worked very hard with our Israeli counterparts to put into place. It’s not like when these attacks were launched Saturday afternoon our time – Saturday evening, Sunday morning Israeli time – that it was something that we had not been preparing for with Israel in the days leading up to that attack. We have been working quite closely with them to coordinate our response, to talk about how we could defend Israel, how we could take down those drones and missiles, and something we worked very closely on, as well as we coordinated with our diplomatic response.

As you saw, the Secretary had a number of calls with foreign counterparts last week to send messages indirectly to Iran, to ask other countries to make clear to Iran that they should not escalate this conflict. We shared all of those conversations with the Government of Israel, made clear to them that we were working not just – with them not just militarily but that we were working with them diplomatically. And that’s what we are committed to continue to do to defend the state of Israel and the people of Israel.

QUESTION: And are the Rafah meetings still going to happen this week?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any scheduling announcements to make with regards to those meetings.

Go ahead. I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: Just in a similar vein, that the fact that Israel didn’t take a preemptive strike and that the U.S. and others were warning that a strike from Iran, an attack from Iran, would likely be coming – there was no preemptive strike. So should we read that as it’s – that the U.S. and allies have been successful in actually stopping Israel from doing what it might otherwise normally do? And also, the Secretary spoke about this this morning alongside the Iraqi PM, but did – he said that in the next – in the 36 hours since the attack, this diplomatic response and seeking to prevent escalation will continue from the U.S. So we – are we supposed to see that as a – as primarily aimed at Israel, given that the ball is now in Israel’s court?

MR MILLER: So with respect to the first question, I’m always reluctant to kind of tell people how to read any one thing or the other. I’m just going to speak to our actions, which we have already done at length.

With respect to the next 36 hours, though, to follow up on what the Secretary has said, we are making clear to everyone in the region that we don’t want to see the conflict escalated, and that is a message that we have sent not just starting this weekend, not just last week, but really since October 7th. If you’ve paid attention to the Secretary’s trips – and I know you have, and I know a lot of people in this room have been on these trips – one of the things we have always talked about and that we have engaged intensively in diplomacy to try to pursue, is a de-escalation of the conflict and to prevent the conflict from spreading and widening.

I don’t know how many times you’ve heard the Secretary say that. I don’t know how many times you’ve heard me say it. And of course, if you’ve heard us say it, you can imagine how many times our counterparts across the region and across the world have heard us say it because it has been one of the primary strategic objectives we have been pursuing and that we will continue to pursue in the days ahead.

Yes.

QUESTION: A quick follow on that UN angle. There’s some criticism today that the UN missile sanctions on Iran that expired October last year somehow enabled this attack. How do you respond to that?

MR MILLER: So I would say, first off, that’s just absolutely not true. But – and to get into kind of the facts of that, Iran has a ballistic missile and drone program that it has been building for years, well before those sanctions expired, and that were – that were continued not just in administrations going back decades but under the previous administration’s watch. So Iran has continued to pursue these destabilizing activities.

But we have – what we have done is, at the same time, held Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities, and that includes sanctioning – as I said, imposing more than 500 sanctions on Iran and Iranian entities since the outset of this administration. And we will continue to hold them accountable as appropriate.

QUESTION: Well, hold on. All that’s well and good, but the fact of the matter is that there were sanctions that were in place on that to try and curtail that program.

MR MILLER: There continue to be —

QUESTION: And you guys – and they were dropped. I mean, they expired.

MR MILLER: There continue to be other sanctions on Iran’s missile programs. And as I said, we continue to look at ways that we can tighten our sanctions, increase the enforcement of our sanctions, and if necessary, impose new sanctions on Iran. But they have a ballistic missile program that goes back —

QUESTION: Yes.

MR MILLER: — years, decades.

QUESTION: They did, which is why the sanctions were introduced in the first place.

MR MILLER: And we – and it’s why – and it’s —

QUESTION: And then you guys let them – let them expire along with the general arms embargo.

MR MILLER: It’s why – and it is why we have sanctions on their ballistic missile program; we’ll continue to look for new sanctions.

QUESTION: Yeah, but – but you don’t have the same sanctions that you had in place before.

MR MILLER: We do have sanctions on their ballistic missile programs and have imposed, as I’ve said, 500 sanctions – over 500 sanctions total with respect to Iran, and we’ll continue to look to hold them accountable.

QUESTION: But it’s – clearly, they’re not working. The sanctions are not working.

MR MILLER: Iran has for years tried to evade sanctions imposed by the United States, imposed by our European allies, imposed by the United Nations. But what we have seen those sanctions do is drive up the cost for Iran to do business, slow down their weapons programs, and ultimately at times I think you can see them produce less effective weapons – probably shouldn’t get into that in detail – but less effective weapons than they otherwise would.

QUESTION: One more. Matt, did you clearly ask Israel not to retaliate? And in case that they responded, will you continue to defend Israel?

MR MILLER: I am just not going to get into the private diplomatic conversations we’ve had with Israel, but that said, we have made clear privately and publicly that we are committed to Israel’s defense. That will always be true. That commitment remains ironclad. It will not change. And if there are further attacks on Israel, of course, we will continue to defend them.

QUESTION: I just had a – following Michel regarding this. I mean, you are now pressuring Israel not to respond on the Iranian attack, and at the same time saying that if they’ve been attacked, you will defend them. Do you see that this was counterproductive to what you’re trying to do? You’re enabling them to respond to Iran while you’re saying to them we’ll protect you when Iran retaliates back.

MR MILLER: So first of all, you are – there are a couple of things in your questions I have not said from this podium. I’m not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations and what we are sharing with Israel privately. But publicly, of course, we are committed to the defense of Israel, and there is – that is something that the President has made clear from day one, something you’ve heard the Secretary say clear, and it’s something that will continue to be the case. And I think – but if I could get at kind of a broader issue, I think inherent in your question, there have been times over the past six months since October 7th that Israel has taken actions with which we don’t agree, or Israel hasn’t moved as quickly as we would like to implement certain changes. And we engage with them on those issues, and we try to get improvements, and we will continue to try and do that. But at a fundamental level, there is a bond between the United States and the people of Israel, and that bond rests on our shared security. And one of the things that we will continue to be committed to is the defense of that security.

QUESTION: And do you willing to risk a regional total war for this?

MR MILLER: I think you’ve heard me say here a number of times that we are working to pursue de-escalation and that has been the focus of our diplomacy since October 7th – not just over the weekend, but since day one – is trying to pursue de-escalation and prevent the conflict from widening and spreading and expanding.

QUESTION: Last question, but I want to go back to a statement you issued an hour earlier about the West Bank violence. You started the statement by saying we strongly condemn the murder of 13-year old Israeli Binyamin Achimair. And the second paragraph, you say we are also increasingly concerned by the violence against Palestinians that led to the death of two Palestinians. Why the distinction?

MR MILLER: There is no distinction. We condemn the – we condemn all loss of innocent life.

QUESTION: By why the change of word? The wording is different.

MR MILLER: I think you’re reading too much into the formulation of the statement. We condemn all loss of innocent life, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian. And that’s why we mentioned all three individuals who died in that statement.

QUESTION: I think maybe you should put them all in the same sentence.

MR MILLER: Happy to take – happy to take your —

QUESTION: (Laughter.) I mean, that’s what the question seems to be going for.

MR MILLER: I’m happy to take your – I’m happy to take drafting suggestions, but, look, if you look at —

QUESTION: Can you do that, or —

MR MILLER: I think the statement was pretty clear that we condemn violence against Palestinian civilians just as we condemn violence against Israeli civilians.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. The U.S. Embassy in Israel noted that the threat of drone and missile barrages diminished over the weekend when it lifted its shelter-in-place order for U.S. Government officials, but the travel restrictions are still in place for those personnel. Is that something that’s going to be the posture going forward or do you anticipate lifting those as well?

MR MILLER: That is something that we monitor on a real-time basis and make assessments. You saw us issue that security alert over the weekend when there were drones and missiles in the sky. And when that threat receded, we lifted that security alert as – when it comes to the policy that we put in place for U.S. embassy personnel and their family members, it’s something we’ll continue to look at and make any adjustments that circumstances warrant.

QUESTION: And we have seen some major airlines cancel flights out of Tel Aviv. Is there any concern at this point about U.S. citizens being able to transit in and out of the country safely?

MR MILLER: We have not seen U.S. citizens have difficulty leaving or getting into Israel. Obviously, there has been a decrease in commercial travel since October 7th. We saw it plummet first and then options come back online over time. It’s not something that we’ve seen any long-term changes to over the past few days, but of course we will continue to monitor the situation.

Any more on the region —

QUESTION: China.

MR MILLER: — before we move on?

QUESTION: One more on —

MR MILLER: Alex, do you really have one on the region? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. You just described perfectly well how successfully the U.S. and allies came up with coordinated response, they defended their ally against drones and missiles coming from a terrorist state. This is exactly what the Ukrainian people have been asking for two years —

MR MILLER: I knew this was not going to be about the region, Alex.

QUESTION: I mean, because everyone —

MR MILLER: First of all, I will take the question, but you know I’m always going to call on you. I was trying to finish out in the region before coming back to the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Yeah. The question that I —

MR MILLER: Go ahead, but —

QUESTION: The question I keep hearing from Ukrainian people of why do you think they don’t deserve the same.

MR MILLER: If you look at the – at our commitment to Ukraine, it has included significant provision of missile defense to allow the Ukrainian military to shoot down drones and missiles and attacks on the Ukrainian people. That is something that this administration has committed to with billions and billions of dollars in weapon systems, and it’s not just American weapon systems, but we have worked to source air defense systems from around the world to help defend the Ukrainian people against Russian attacks.

QUESTION: But what happened in Israel last week happens in Ukraine every week, and it bears – I mean, I know we cover this every day, but Ukrainians are facing same drones coming from Iran when they give them to Russia to attack on them. My question is which one – which U.S. that they have seen on TV yesterday – which U.S. is the true friend of Ukraine? That’s my question.

MR MILLER: So, Alex, I am just going to completely reject the premise of that question. I don’t think it accurately represents the United States commitment to Ukraine. We have been committed to Ukraine since day one, and our record bears that out when you look at the international coalition that we have assembled to respond to Russia’s aggression, to hold Russia accountable through sanctions and export control measures and, again, through the provision of weapon systems. And I mentioned air defense because that’s most relevant to your question, but other systems as well – offensive systems that they have used to take the fight to the Russian army and reclaim half the territory that Russia took from them. So I think the premise of the question, frankly, is just a bit absurd, because it does not match the reality of our record when it comes to supporting the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian military.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Let me go on – let me back to someone in the region.

QUESTION: Please come back to me later on.

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Behind – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Me?

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: All right, thank you. For the Italian television. So we heard the President saying that he’s – he will support Israel but he doesn’t want an escalation. So – but Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be listening too much to this ally, just go his own way for his political reason, although the ally keep supporting Israel. So in case of a further escalation, will the U.S. willing to be involved in a potential war toward Iran in which other countries in the region might joined the U.S. and —

MR MILLER: I – so this is a little bit similar to some of the other questions in which it asked me to speak to a hypothetical that I am not going to do. But, that said, we have made very clear that we do not seek war with Iran, that – we made that clear multiple times over the weekend and, of course, since October 7th.

QUESTION: But it will join in case Israel needs support of the U.S.?

MR MILLER: I just don’t want to speak to any hypotheticals. We are committed to Israel’s defense and we showed that over the weekend, but we want to achieve de-escalation and we do not want to see a wider —

QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up for the Saudi and the Jordan? Because they are supporting the U.S. and Israel. What kind of talks are you guys having that – if you can say something about it?

MR MILLER: So we – so the Secretary did consult with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Saudi Arabia over the weekend to, as I said in my opening comments, make clear the United States position that we want to see de-escalation in the region, we want to continue to pursue it. But then on a broader level, of course, he has been consulting with those two governments, as he has with other partners in the region, about a path to resolving the conflict in Gaza, and that’s something that we continue to work on.

QUESTION: Israel?

MR MILLER: Any more on the region?

QUESTION: Israel? Israel?

MR MILLER: Go ahead, before I go to the rest of the world. I’ve had a few – I’ve had a – after having one pivot away from the region under false pretenses, I’m going to try to be a little more sure.

QUESTION: I just want to ask a little bit, Matt, about the messaging with Iran through different countries. So U.S. yesterday denied the Iranian assertion that they were given 72 hours of notice of the strikes. You don’t mean, though, by denying that you didn’t get any notice at all, just to set that clear? You have gotten notice.

MR MILLER: No, we did not get notice from Iran of these strikes. That is not correct. Now, we did have some indication that they were coming.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR MILLER: You saw the – speak to them, the possibility of them coming publicly. We had an expectation that Iran was going to retaliate in some way. But no, we did not get notification from Iran.

QUESTION: But there has been plenty of reporting that through Jordanians, Iraqis, and Turks, messages had been passed to the United States. So you guys did not interpret that as some sort of a – an attempt to give notice?

MR MILLER: No, I don’t think that’s how I would interpret it. Of course, Iran made a bunch of claims in its statements.

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: A lot of things that they say about their private statements don’t – aren’t true. I spoke to some of those over the weekend. It was our expectation based on a number of things that they would attack Israel, but no, there was no notification in that sense from Iran.

QUESTION: And no such —

MR MILLER: But I would say, look, if you look at their public comments, in their public comments they talked about how they were going to respond in some way, and certainly they said that in their private comments. But that’s different than, I think, what you mean or how I think people generally consider notification when you think of timing and scope and all of those sorts of things. They were – they said publicly and privately a number of times to anyone that would talk to – that anyone that they talk to, not just the United States but others, that they were going to do something. But in terms of notification, no.

QUESTION: Yeah, no, I’m just trying to understand what kind of information you have received through these different channels. There was also the Swiss. You have received some information through the Swiss. Is that not right?

MR MILLER: We did receive information through that channel, through the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

QUESTION: Okay. Right. And let me boil down to one specific, because there has been reporting that, like, a Turkish diplomatic or security source basically saying Iran informed us in advance of – in advance of what would happen, possible developments came up during the meeting with Blinken. This is the – this is a meeting or a call between Secretary Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. We were aware of the possibility. They conveyed through us to Iran that this reaction must be within certain limits.

So in this exchange, for example, you have not heard from the Turks any detail about these possibilities? I’m just trying to get a sense and a picture of the level of details that you have received about the incoming attacks through these different intermediaries.

MR MILLER: So I will say that there were a number of conversations with foreign interlocutors over the past week. In none of those conversations did we get a notification of attack or a sense of the targets. Obviously, you heard Iran saying publicly that they were going to respond in a very large way.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR MILLER: And so we were prepared for a significant attack. I’m not going to talk about – and I think for reasons that are probably – probably well understood, I’m not going to talk about all of our – all of the ways in which we gather information about potential attacks. But based on our assessment of the situation, we did expect that Iran would take some action against Israel, which is why you saw us working with Israel to prepare for that attack and to be able to defend against it. And it’s why we were able to successfully do so.

QUESTION: Right. And the final thing is about the hostages. What is the sticking point right now? Like, the onus is on who, you would say, and whether – is the U.S. still pursuing this? It seems to have been at an impasse again.

MR MILLER: So we are still pursuing this. And I will say there is an incredibly significant proposal that went from the United States and Egypt and Qatar and Israel to Hamas last week, and Israel moved a significant way in submitting that proposal. And there is a deal on the table that would achieve much of what Hamas claims it wants to achieve, and they have not taken that deal.

Now, they can speak for themselves about why they haven’t taken that deal, but the bottom line is they have rejected it. And if they did accept it, it would allow for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza of at least six weeks that would benefit the Palestinian people they claim to represent. It would allow us to continue the improvements on the delivery of humanitarian assistance that we have seen over the past week. And those improvements have been significant and are ongoing, but if you didn’t have active, ongoing hostilities, the UN and other partners could do even more to get humanitarian assistance in. And the bottom line is Hamas needs to take that deal and they need to explain to the world and to the Palestinian people why they aren’t taking it, because it is the Hamas – it is Hamas right now that is the barrier and the obstacle to a ceasefire in Gaza.

QUESTION: Israel?

QUESTION: Israel?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: You, go ahead. Right, turn around.

QUESTION: Me? Okay.

MR MILLER: Yeah, sorry.

QUESTION: Just – I just want – sir, regarding to the rubble of – the rubble of the pier, we’ve seen all – we’ve seen the rubble, how they build the pier from the rubble of the destroyed houses in Gaza, from the remain of the people who killed in Gaza. And this is – this pier is built specially for – it’s built specially to human aid for people of Gaza. This is – do you, sir – you don’t think this is unhuman for – and it’s a contract with the purpose of to build this pier?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to the specific details regarding the construction of the pier only because that’s not work that’s ongoing through the State Department. That’s work that’s happening out of the Pentagon and I would defer to the Pentagon to speak to that.

But of course, the reason why this administration and this government are working to establish that pier is to get significantly more humanitarian assistance into Gaza. We have seen, as I said a moment ago, continued progress on that front over the past few days. We saw a significant amount of trucks go in over the weekend; we’ve seen improvements in mechanisms for the delivery of aid. We saw – I think it’s 65 trucks that moved to the north of Gaza yesterday and there are more slated to go to the north today – something that wasn’t happening in any kind of significant number weeks ago. We’ve seen Erez crossing open for initial deliveries and improvements are being made to it to allow it to handle more traffic. We’ve seen Ashdod now open for delivery of humanitarian assistance. We’ve seen – we are seeing repair to water pipes that deliver water into Gaza underway and hopefully completed in the very near future.

Now, all that – I go through all those improvements. We, as we have made clear, want to see those improvements sustained and expanded over time. But it is towards that goal of getting more humanitarian assistance that we have decided to pursue the delivery through a maritime option in the first place, and nothing else.

QUESTION: The U.S. condemned the violence in West Bank between Palestinian and Israeli, but the violence from Israeli settlers is under the protection – they burned the houses attacking the Palestinians, and this is under the Israeli protection – Israeli authority protection. Why you don’t clearly condemn the Israeli authorities?

MR MILLER: So we have made —

QUESTION: Not only between Palestinian – the Palestinian, there is no – nobody protect them.

MR MILLER: So we have made very clear on a number of occasions – and oftentimes when it comes to breaking news events, we speak to in our statements what we can confirm for a fact at the time, and our understanding of those facts develops over time as we were able to gather new information. So we made clear in the statement we put out today that we strongly condemn the violence against Palestinians and their property that ensued in the West Bank over the weekend resulting in dozens of injuries and the death of two Palestinians, just as we strongly condemn the murder of the 14-year-old Israeli boy.

And you have heard us say in the past that we’ve been incredibly concerned about the Israeli National Police and the IDF not doing enough to stop settler violence and that settler violence needs to be stopped, it needs to be policed, and those responsible for it need to be held accountable. We have made that very clear, as well as imposing our own sanctions on people involved in violent activities in the West Bank.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Go ahead – go ahead. Go ahead, in the – in the back.

QUESTION: Matt, thank you very much. How do you counter the argument that not striking back against Iran represents an appeasement of Iran?

MR MILLER: So I would say if you look at the actions that we took over the weekend, they were incredibly successful, first of all. That is, I think, the number one fact that needs to be established, that the United States showed that we are committed to the defense of Israel, and not just that we are committed to the defense but that we can be successful in the defense of Israel. And we demonstrated that and the Israeli military demonstrated that by shooting down the vast majority – overwhelming majority – of the more than 300 missiles and drones that were launched by Iran.

And then when it comes to Iran, we continue to hold them accountable for their actions, for their destabilizing activities. We have – have, as I said, imposed more than 500 sanctions on Iran since the outset of this administration, and we have made clear that we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions. And we think it’s important, as I said, that everyone in the international community condemn Iran, and we’ve been engaged in diplomatic conversations to that regard over the past few days.

QUESTION: But in a region where deterrence counts for so much, the fact that Iran was able to fire ballistic missiles at Israel proper, that – does that not —

MR MILLER: Unsuccessfully. Unsuccessfully. Largely unsuccessfully.

QUESTION: Well, the ballistic – yes, but the ballistic –

MR MILLER: It is – I only say it because it is an incredibly important distinction that they were largely unsuccessful because of the work that we did with Israel.

QUESTION: But you could argue that that was in part a consequence of the 12 days or so that they publicly announced they were going to do something. But does it not – the fact they were able to do it, largely unsuccessfully, does that not for them give them some sense of deterrence, of re-establishing their own deterrence, which is a problem, is it not, for Israel and America?

MR MILLER: So you can make all sorts of arguments, but at the end of the day I’m going to look at the results. And the results that we were able to achieve with Israel – yes, in part through our preparation, in part through our long, decades-long, security agreements and security cooperation – is that we were able to repel that attack, and only a very small number of them succeeded.

And ultimately – ultimately, though, I think the point that I made continues to stand, is that we’re going to continue to work to hold Iran accountable. Iran didn’t start these destabilizing activities over the weekend; they have been a destabilizing force in the region going back for decades. And that is why you have seen us pursue not just actions to hold Iran accountable, but ultimately to isolate Iran.

And when you go back to the broader policy that we have been pursuing that includes normalization between Israel and its neighbors, it is to isolate Iran. So you see an Iran that is cut off from the rest of the region and an Israel that is more integrated, which ultimately, we think is the long-term answer to the very real security challenges that that Israel faces.

QUESTION: And can I just follow up on that – on that point?

MR MILLER: Let me just – because I have a lot of others. Let me just go – go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: On this, some in the Middle East said that the Iranian attack was a farce, a deception, and a storm in a teacup. Do you agree with —

MR MILLER: Who – who said that?

QUESTION: Some writers and report.

MR MILLER: So 300 – more than 300 – missile and drone attacks is an unprecedented action by Iran, launched from Iranian territory targeting the state of Israel. Now, ultimately, we were able to defend that because of our important collaboration with Israel and with the Israeli Defense Forces. But that doesn’t change the unprecedented nature of Iran’s actions and the fact that the international community needs to be united in condemning it.

Let me try to get to some people I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ll come – Janne, I promise I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: In regards to the attacks on Palestinian civilians over the last few days, does the State Department view that Palestinians have a right to defend themselves, to self-defense?

MR MILLER: So when it comes to civilians, obviously we’re going to defer to – we want law enforcement to handle those situations. And we want to see Palestinian law enforcement be able to work in the areas where they have lawful law enforcement capabilities, and we want to see the Israeli National Police in the places where they operate defend Palestinians from illegal attacks. And we, on behalf of the United States, will continue to hold accountable settlers that engage in that type of violence.

QUESTION: But in the absence of such —

MR MILLER: We don’t want to see any civilians taking the law into their own hands. We want to see law enforcement act.

QUESTION: Well, how about —

MR MILLER: That is the appropriate – but I – and that would be our position anywhere in the world. We want to see lawful authorities act appropriately, and that’s what ought to happen in the West Bank, as is true anywhere in the world.

QUESTION: But how would – how would one defend themselves, though, like, defend their homes? Do they have the right to defend their homes?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into kind of on-the-ground determinations about anybody’s specific home. Ultimately, we want to see de-escalation in the West Bank, and that’s why you saw me in the statement that I put out say that this is something that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to work to. We don’t want to see armed Palestinians or armed Israelis taking matters into their own hands. Ultimately, that is how you see an escalation in tensions in the West Bank and escalation in violence in the West Bank. We want to see the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel work to establish law and order and prevent this sort of violence.

QUESTION: Okay. But is there a mechanism for Palestinians? Is there – is there a mechanism for Palestinians to defend themselves given the Palestinian Authority or security —

MR MILLER: So again, when it – when you – when you mean – if you mean individual Palestinians, we don’t want to see them taking violent actions. But we don’t want to see Israeli citizens taking violent actions either. The Government of Israel, the Israeli National Police, the IDF need to hold people accountable that take those types of actions, and that’s what we’ll continue to press for.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Matt. On Thursday, April 11th of this year, you said that the Biden administration fully supports the rights of the Israeli people, but according to CNN and New York Times reports, President Biden has threatened Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and the majority government to change course in their military actions or risk loss of his support for their military strategy with Hamas in Rafah area of Gaza. And now with Iran, how on one hand can you say that you fully support the rights of the Israeli people and on the other hand not fully support the rights of the Israeli people to defend themselves as they see fit? And two brief follow-up.

MR MILLER: We do support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we made that clear over the weekend.

QUESTION: Okay. And then Israel has been under attack – under – from Iran and its proxies since before October 7th, with April 13th’s attack by Iran being the worst and not the first. Why was the Biden administration and State Department, according to a recent CNN report, so quick to telegraph the U.S. would not support any counterattack of Israel on Iran? And then what would it take for America to retaliate against Iran since, according to an Associated Press report, Iran murdered three Americans and dozens more were injured in an overnight drone attack in northeast Jordan over the past several months?

MR MILLER: So first of all, with respect to that drone attack, we did take action at the time, and that’s been well discussed from here and at the Pentagon. And then with respect to the first part of the question, I am not going to speak to private diplomatic conversations or reports about said private diplomatic conversations, but again, you don’t have to look at our words to show that we are committed to the defense of Israel; just look at the actions that we took over the weekend to shoot down drones and missiles headed for Israel that would have hit Israeli targets, harmed the Israeli people, and the United States stood strong with Israel to defend it.

QUESTION: What was the – what was the reason for not – for that – not allowing Israel to have a counterattack on Iran?

MR MILLER: So Israel makes its own sovereign decisions with respect to these questions.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead, Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. China, South Korea, and North Korea. China’s standing committee chairman, Zhao Leji, met with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un last weekend and pledged to strengthen high-level exchanges between China and North Korea and build solidarity with anti-U.S. countries. My question is: Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, currently visiting China – will he discuss these issues with his counterpart?

MR MILLER: So certainly every time that we engage with our Chinese counterparts, whether it is the Secretary at his level or Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink at his, one of the things that is always on the agenda is stability on the Korean Peninsula and preventing North Korea from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

QUESTION: And China is threatening South Korea not to participate in the U.S. actions to keep China in check. What is the U.S. position on this?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any comment on that.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR MILLER: So I’m not sure which reports you’re referring to, but if you want to send them to me, I’d be happy to take a look and see if I have any further comment.

QUESTION: Because they are China and Russia —

MR MILLER: What’s that?

QUESTION: Because China and Russia and North Korea, they want solidarity.

MR MILLER: I just don’t – I’m not sure what’s – hold on.

QUESTION: Why not we – South Korea is going to get the U.S.’s side. Why they —

MR MILLER: I think – I think we have made clear that we stand in solidarity with our South Korean allies over a number of years. I’m just not sure what specific report you’re referring to. That’s why I didn’t have a comment on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. So as far as Iran’s attack, what does it say about Iran’s military capabilities? And how do the – how does this attack affect any diplomatic strategies between the U.S., Israel, and their allies?

MR MILLER: Well, what it says about their military capabilities is that they shot over 300 drones and missiles and the vast majority of them did not make it through.

QUESTION: Right, and —

MR MILLER: What was the second question?

QUESTION: So them being – just to follow up on that – them being unsuccessful, does that say anything about their military capabilities?

MR MILLER: No, that’s what I was just responding to.

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: I don’t have anything further. I don’t have a further assessment to offer to that.

QUESTION: And then – and so how did – was there a change after that attack in the diplomatic strategies between the U.S., Israel, and their allies?

MR MILLER: No, there has been no change in our – the policy that we are – have been trying to achieve since October 7th, in that we are trying to pursue de-escalation and prevent the conflict from widening. As I said in response to an earlier question, you have seen the Secretary focus that – on this question since his very trip to the region in the days immediately after October 7th, and it’s something that we have continued to pursue because we do not believe that a wider regional war is in anyone’s interest. It’s not in Iran’s interest, not in Israel’s interest, not in the interest of the broader – broader region, so that’s why we have tried to prevent one and worked so hard to keep the conflict from escalating or from widening.

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. So the Iranian regime said that they responded to the attack that occurred in Iraq, Damascus, against their consulate. So my question is that: What the United States position is now on that attack? Do you condemn that attack? Do you think that that attack against the Iranians’ consulate was appropriate, was wrong? What is the United States position?

MR MILLER: So we have not yet determined that that actually was an attack on a consulate. The status of that facility is something that we continue to assess.

QUESTION: And – sorry – so the United States condemned Iranians’ attack against Israel. So what else the United States will do, which kind of action the United States will take against Iran? So just condemned?

MR MILLER: So we are going to continue to hold them accountable. It’s something that we have been discussing with our allies and partners over the weekend. I don’t have any steps to preview today. But it has been something that we have done since the outset of the administration, and something that we will continue to pursue.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. That improving ties between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government is one issue that you are addressing with Prime Minister Sudani’s visit – could you explain that in more detail? Like, what issues will you address?

MR MILLER: So we are today hosting senior Iraqi officials at the State Department for the second U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee meeting with the Sudani government. That is the vehicle for our two governments to set priorities for future cooperation within the context of the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. And we are discussing through that forum our shared bilateral priorities and partnership on a broad range of issues, including energy independence, financial reform, water, climate, transportation, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and enhancing educational and cultural relations.

Go ahead. Michel next.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Matt. Thank you very much, Matt. Two questions. One question is that the Saudi minister is in Pakistan right now. What is something from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia you would expect to do to improve the situation in the Middle East, and whether then would these countries accepting Israel will play any constructive role if their only demand of Palestine, which the Biden administration also supports – if that is done?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to that specific visit or any meetings in that regard, but in terms of work with Saudi Arabia, you saw the Secretary speak to his Saudi counterpart yesterday – I think he spoke to him last Thursday or Wednesday. We have continued to work with them not just to de-escalate tensions in the immediate term, but to work for long-term – a long-term lasting resolution to the conflict and a pathway to two states, and ultimately normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel that would provide regional peace and security for years to come.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. And one more.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: My very nice colleague and very well-known journalist for Pakistan, Hamid Mir, one of the top guys – I’m just quoting his words, that Pakistan right now has more suffocation than what it was like during General Zia days, General Musharraf days. And six judges have resigned of the country. And he said, what if journalist starts giving resignation? Will that be enough to convince Matt that things in Pakistan are not good? Because I’ve given you examples of former prime ministers, from former congressmen from Pakistan.

MR MILLER: So —

QUESTION: But things are now as flowery as you are showing since last two years about Pakistan.

MR MILLER: Color me a bit skeptical, but I doubt that this person you mentioned mentioned my name in describing this. But I would say of course we continue to work for freedom of expression in Pakistan. We continue to support the rule of law. That has not changed.

QUESTION: But that’s not about a particular person, Matt. Can I —

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Right now in Georgia thousands of Georgians are protesting the Russian law. And meanwhile, in the parliament, it seems like the ruling party is moving forward. The latest update from Georgia is that special forces are preparing for some actions against the protesters. So once again, regarding this law, if I may ask: While the Georgian people, the entire West, is condemning this law and only Russia supports it, how does it align the strategic partnership between Georgia and the United States?

MR MILLER: So let me just say we remain deeply concerned that this draft legislation would harm civil society organizations working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens and would derail Georgia from its European path. We are also concerned that this draft legislation would impede independent media organizations working to provide access for Georgian citizens to high-quality information. But because this remains draft legislation, I’m going to sort of leave it there today and not talk about any implications should it actually be passed into law.

QUESTION: And one more.

MR MILLER: Yes.

QUESTION: Last week you urged Georgian officials to conduct further investigation into the four judges sanctioned by the U.S. Did you have any communication on this subject with the Georgian officials? And we see that instead of investigating, Georgian officials are demanding that the sanctions must be lifted on the judges.

MR MILLER: So the three sanctions you mentioned were put in place to promote accountability for malign actors who’ve benefitted from impunity as well as worked to undermine the rule of law and the Georgian public’s faith in their judicial system. And in terms of communications with the Government of Georgia, of course we encourage that government to take steps to promote accountability for corrupt actors.

Go ahead, Michel, and then we’ll wrap for today.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the attack on a bishop in a church in Sydney, Australia today?

MR MILLER: Let me take that back and get you a response.

I’ll take one more. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I’m wondering if I may draw your attention to recent pieces on India. One is in Foreign Policy titled, “U.S.-India Ties Remain Fundamentally Fragile,” and the other is titled, “Undemocratic Rule of Modi’s India Is a Security Threat to South Asia,” published in the South Asian Journal. With concern about democratic backsliding in India and recent concerns from the State Department regarding the crackdown on opposition, how will you navigate the relationship with India in coming days, including depending on India in Indo-Pacific Strategy?

MR MILLER: So India is the world’s largest democracy, it is an important strategic partner of the United States, and I expect that to remain true.

We’ll wrap. With that, we’ll wrap for the day. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)

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