House Democrats Urge White House To Pressure Israel On Gaza Aid

Dozens of House Democrats are urging President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure Israel into taking steps to limit harm to Palestinian civilians trapped and struggling to flee their increasingly ravaged homes in the northern Gaza Strip.

The 55 members of Congress took care in their letter to condemn Hamas’ brutal attack that left more than 1,200 in Israel dead, calling it the “worst perpetration of violence inflicted on the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

The group outlined five specific priorities for the Biden administration, emphasizing international laws on warfare, the swift facilitation of humanitarian aid and the importance of denouncing hate on either side of the conflict.

Signees include several of the House’s prominent progressives, such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), who have been vilified by conservative media and threatened with physical harm for their vocal support of Palestinians. Two other such members, Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), did not add their signatures.

Blinken and the State Department may not take much notice of the group’s demands: Internal emails viewed by HuffPost reveal that the department is instructing diplomats not to publicly discuss de-escalation.

The letter also comes hours after Israeli President Isaac Herzog sparked alarm by stating that Palestinian civilians were directly to blame for the actions of Hamas militants, suggesting Israel’s right-wing leadership is not much concerned with avoiding civilian deaths.

“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog said at a press conference on Friday. “It is not true, this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up.”

Biden, however, noted on Friday: “We can’t lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas and Hamas’ appalling attacks, and they’re suffering as a result, as well.”

“At my direction, our teams are working in the region, including communicating directly with the governments of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab nations, and the United Nations, to surge support,” Biden said.

Around 500 Americans are currently among those trapped in Gaza, according to a Washington Post report.

First on the House Democrats’ list of priorities was pressuring Israeli leadership into carrying out military operations “according to international law,” which prohibits the targeting of civilians. More than 1,500 people have been killed in Gaza, including some 500 children, Gaza’s health ministry has said.

Second, the group of Democrats urged the Biden administration to restore the delivery of food, water, fuel, electricity and other critical supplies — currently blocked by Israeli forces — as soon as possible. Israel has said the blockade will continue until the hostages kidnapped by Hamas militants during their surprise attack are returned home.

The Biden administration should “discourage any hate crimes and backlash against any American — including Jews and Muslims — including by communicating to the American people that Hamas is not the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people are not Hamas,” the letter read. (Hamas rules by force in the Gaza Strip, populated in large part by children and teens.)

The letter also advocated for establishing a humanitarian corridor to allow Palestinian civilians a safe escape route, and for humanitarian aid to be sent to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Messages from elected Democrats and other public figures in support of the Palestinians have received heavy scrutiny.

Read the full letter below.

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