After the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented incursion from Gaza into Israel this weekend and Israel formally declared war on Sunday, federal, state and local leaders voiced their support of Israel in the conflict.
The attack caught Israel’s vaunted military and intelligence apparatus completely off guard, bringing heavy battles to its streets for the first time in decades.
Civilians are already paying a high price. Around 700 people have been killed in Israel — a staggering toll by the scale of its recent conflicts. Nearly 500 have been killed in Gaza, a tiny, impoverished enclave of 2.3 million Palestinians bordering Israel and Egypt. Palestinian militant groups claimed to be holding over 130 captives from the Israeli side.
The U.S. Central Command, which is based in Tampa, said it is taking steps to reinforce its posture in the Middle East.
Among the ships being moved into the Eastern Mediterranean are the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner and USS Carney, which are homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
The USS Carney and USS Thomas Hudner are part of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, along with the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, and the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Ramage and USS Roosevelt. The entire strike group is being moved into the region, and the U.S. has also taken steps to add more fighter aircraft squadrons to the region.
“USCENTCOM stands firmly with our Israeli and regional partners to address the risks of any party seeking to expand the conflict,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command.
Israel Defense Forces posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, thanking the U.S. for “standing with us against Hamas terrorism.”
Thank you for standing with us against Hamas terrorism.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 8, 2023
Leaders on both sides of the aisle say they stand with Israel in its war with Hamas. Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke Sunday while on the campaign trail in Iowa.
“We need to be unified in support of their ability to respond and to defend their people against really, truly barbaric attacks,” DeSantis said. “And the images are revolting to see what Hamas has done to take women and children. It’s the worst of humanity. We have been supportive, of course, of Israel for a long time. They’re a special ally, great ally for us and we all need to be standing with them in this really, really dark moment.”
DeSantis also spoke out against rallies in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, where hundreds demonstrated in support of the people of Palestine. Another group gathered near the Tampa rally in support of Israel.
The governor accused participants in the rally for Palestine of supporting Hamas, but it was a rally in support of the Palestinian people and the two are not interchangeable.
Palestinian and Israeli civilians have both died in the conflict.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio voiced his support of Israel with a post on X, saying “Israel has only one option in response to yesterday’s barbaric attack, the permanent elimination of Hamas. Anyone demanding Israel not ‘escalate’ or calling for a ‘cease-fire’ is either out of touch with this unfortunate reality or sympathizes with Hamas.”
Hamas exists for one reason alone, to wipe out the Jewish state of Israel.
So Israel has only one option in response to yesterday’s barbaric attack, the permanent elimination of Hamas.
Anyone demanding Israel not “escalate” or calling for a “cease-fire” is either out of touch…
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 8, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott agreed with Rubio in condemning calls for “de-escalation.”
“Israelis are dying at the hands of Iran-backed terrorists. Every American ally & partner must swiftly condemn this invasion & acts of war by Hamas terrorists & the Iranian regime which supports their murderous attacks. We stand with Israel,” Scott wrote on X.
Israelis are dying today at the hands of Iran-backed terrorists. Every American ally & partner must swiftly condemn this invasion & acts of war by Hamas terrorists & the Iranian regime which supports their murderous attacks.
We stand with Israel 🇺🇸🇮🇱 https://t.co/bxv6Q6QyUJ
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 7, 2023
Nikki Fried, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, also shared a message of support.
“This unprovoked act of terrorism must be condemned by nations around the world. Israel has the right to defend herself and her people,” Fried said. “The attacks on innocent lives are unacceptable and I stand with Israel. Prayers for the families who have already lost loved ones.”
Fried also shared posts on X about a community gathering Monday in Aventura, Florida, and offering ways to support Israel.
For those looking for ways to support Israel. pic.twitter.com/c0mIDqws8h
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) October 8, 2023
Locally, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said they stand ready to support the local Jewish communities during this time.
Waters made reference to a recent mission trip he took to Israel, saying he witnessed the strength and resilience of the people of Israel firsthand.
“I remain committed to making Jacksonville a safer place for all people and stand with our Jewish community during this difficult time,” he wrote on X.
My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel. While on a recent law-enforcement mission trip, I was able to witness their strength and resilience firsthand.
I remain committed to making Jacksonville a safer place for all people and stand with our Jewish community during…
— Sheriff T.K. Waters (@jsosheriff) October 9, 2023
Sheriff Staly released a statement on social media, saying that he’s directed increased patrols near synagogues in Flagler County.
“Nobody in our community deserves to feel unsafe,” he said.
A statement from Sheriff Rick Staly on this morning’s attacks in Israel. pic.twitter.com/s1YBRmDW1M
— Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (@FlaglerSheriff) October 7, 2023