Washington 'will not wait' on Israel aid package as delegation finishes trip

Top US Senators say they sheltered in place on visit to Tel Aviv under threat of Hamas rockets

Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney meet with families of the victims of the Hamas attack on Israel. Credit: @SenSchumer
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Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the US Senate, has pledged to put a US-Israeli aid package together quickly, as he wrapped up a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel that saw delegates rush to shelter from a threat of Hamas rockets.

“I'm doing everything in my power to ensure the Senate delivers the support Israel needs to accomplish military intelligence and humanitarian goals. We will not just talk, we will act,” said Mr Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in US history, as he led a group of five senators on a trip to Israel at the weekend.

“We will work to move this through the Senate ASAP, and the Israeli leaders made it clear to us they need the aid quickly,” the top Democrat added.

The delegation made a last-minute trip to Israel as the US ally besieges Gaza and prepares for a ground incursion in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas militants who killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped about 200 more.

Meanwhile, an Israeli evacuation order has displaced more than one million people from Gaza, with entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble after a week of Israeli air strikes that have killed at least 2,750 Palestinians.

Mr Schumer said on Sunday that the congressional delegation was rushed to a Tel Aviv shelter amid Hamas rocket fire.

He posted a photo on X appearing to show himself and others, including Mitt Romney, a Republican senator who ran for president in 2012, sheltering during what his team said were air raid sirens.

The visit included meetings with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, opposition leader Yair Lapid, as well as Israeli survivors of the Hamas attacks and families of people taken hostage by the militant group.

Mr Schumer told reporters on Sunday that the Senate “will not wait” for a chaos-riddled House of Representatives to move on Israel aid.

Congress is scrambling to respond to the Israel-Gaza war after Republicans in the House chamber ousted their own speaker.

“We're not waiting for the House. We believe if the Senate acts in a strong bipartisan way it may indeed improve the chances that the House, even with its current dysfunction, will act,” said Mr Schumer.

He added that Israel's goal of eradicating Hamas “has to happen.”

“We're here to share a message of resolute solidarity. We say to Israel, America will stand with its ally,” said Mr Schumer.

Israel already receives the highest amount of US military aid.

Politicians last week introduced legislation to provide $2 billion in aid to Israel for Iron Dome resupply, which would add to the $3.3 billion already cleared.

And a bipartisan group of almost 400 members of Congress have introduced a resolution standing with Israel “as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists and condemning Hamas’s brutal war against Israel”.

Updated: October 16, 2023, 4:08 PM