Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Issues related to national security and the crisis in Israel remain top of mind for Montana's two senators, who agree in their support for Israel and the need to strengthen the southern border.

In a call with state media, Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday affirmed his support for Israel as it grapples with the fall-out of Hamas' attack last week.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks launched by Hamas against one of America's closest allies, and I certainly support Israel's right to defend itself,” Tester said. “The situation in Israel is serious and something we can't take lightly.”

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester said he's working on a bipartisan aid package for Israel and other American allies to ensure they have “the tools they need to counter Hamas, Iran, China and Russia.”

He said he's also concerned about the vulnerability of America's southern border with Mexico.

“I'm working to make sure there are significant resources to secure our southern border,” he said. “It's something I've consistently requested that the (Biden) administration to prioritize. We have to know who's coming into our country and what they're bringing, and that starts with more manpower and it starts with better technology.”

Sen. Steve Daines recently toured the south border and, upon return, asked the Biden administration to change its border policies following what Daines described as new warnings that Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist may be looking to cross into the U.S.

Daines pointed to a statement issued earlier his week by the intelligence division of the San Diego Boarder Patrol saying that “Foreign fighters of Israel -Hamas conflict may potentially be encountered at the southwest border.”

Daines this week introduced the “Guaranteeing Aggressors Zero Admission Act,” or the “GAZA Act,” which prevents the Biden administration from granting visas to holders of Palestinian Authority passports.

“During my recent trip to the southern border, I learned that since October 1, Border Patrol encountered people from Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, among others,” Daines said. “They apprehended more than 151 people whose names appeared on the terror watch list in fiscal year 2023.”

Given recent events in the Middle East, Daines said the issue needs attention.

“Given the recent terror attacks on Israel by Hamas, it is apparent that terrorists will stop at nothing to do harm to the United States and our allies,” he said. “We must take every action necessary to protect the American people from these threats and force the Biden administration to close our borders to every possible threat to our national security.”