Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has offered to provide the Israeli military with planning and intelligence support to help the Israelis rescue hostages taken by the terrorist group Hamas since Saturday’s large-scale attacks, a defense official told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

The offer does not include having U.S. troops on the ground to help with rescue operations, the defense official said.

Hamas launched an unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel over the weekend, killing more than 900 Israelis and taking an unknown number of hostages, including women, children, and disabled people.

The terrorist group has also vowed to execute hostages every time an Israeli airstrike hits the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based.

Austin made the offer of assistance to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the weekend, and Austin has also told the Joint Special Operations Command to “lean forward” with providing intelligence and planning support to the Israel Defense Forces, the defense official said.

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U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command are also offering to provide hostage rescue planning and intelligence support, the defense official said.

CNN first reported on Austin’s offer of assistance to the Israeli military.

President Biden said on Tuesday that the U.S. government has confirmed that Hamas has taken American citizens hostage. Biden did not specify how many Americans are currently being held by the terrorist group.

“I’ve directed my team to share intelligence and deploy additional experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts,” Biden said from the White House on Tuesday. “Because as president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage round the world.

Earlier on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby indicated that the U.S. government and Israeli officials have started to coordinate on hostage rescue efforts.

When asked by CNN anchor Phil Mattingly if Israel had accepted U.S. offers of assistance for intelligence and hostage rescue support, Kirby replied: “Yeah, I think – Yes, it has Phil. The Israelis were grateful for that offer of assistance, and we are having those initial conversations with them right now.”

Kirby did not specify who in the U.S. government is talking to the Israelis.  

“Clearly, we’re going to do everything we can to help with this hostage crisis,” Kirby said.

The United States has already sent Israel munitions and other equipment it needs, a senior official told reporters on Monday.

“Planes have already taken off, and we anticipate seeing continual delivery on some of the requests Israel has made,” the official said.”We’re also contacting US industry to gain expedited shipment of pending Israeli orders for military equipment that otherwise may have been considered routine for movement.”

UPDATE: 10/10/203; this story was updated with President Joe Biden’s comments on Tuesday.

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