Democratic politicians urge Biden to press Israel for ceasefire

Parachuting in aid is 'not going to solve the problem' and killing of innocent people 'has to stop', says senator

The Biden administration is under growing domestic pressure to address the suffering of Palestinian civilians. AP
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Democratic senators have called on President Joe Biden to press Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza, citing the recent deaths of Palestinian civilians and what they portrayed as a lagging US response to the humanitarian crisis.

“This killing has to stop, of the innocent people there,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN on Sunday.

“The medical situation on the ground there is horrible, horrible.”

The Biden administration is under growing domestic pressure to address the suffering of Palestinian civilians, with demands for a ceasefire on the rise, notably among Mr Biden's own Democrats.

In response to the worsening humanitarian situation and Israel continuing to hold up or block aid from entering the enclave over security concerns, US and Jordanian forces on Saturday airdropped about 38,000 meals along the coast of Gaza on Saturday, and more are planned.

“This notion of air drops – I support that, but that is not going to solve the problem,” Mr Durbin said.

He urged the administration to push for a ceasefire and humanitarian response as quickly as possible.

“Members of Congress, at least the Democrats in the Senate, have been calling for that right and left,” he added.

Latest from the Israel-Gaza war – in pictures

Last week, hundreds of Palestinians were killed or injured as they gathered to receive aid in Gaza. Palestinian authorities accused Israeli forces of opening fire on the crowds, with doctors in Gaza saying they had treated victims with gunshot wounds.

Israel has said it will review the incident and has denied its troops shot at people, saying most victims were trampled in the chaos.

According to health authorities in the enclave, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its assault following Hamas's October 7 attack.

“I think it is time for the President to use all the leverage that he has to get a long-term ceasefire,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who heads a Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East, told ABC.

“I think if that ceasefire doesn’t come, it’s in Israel’s interest for them to pause military activity to solve the humanitarian crisis.”

US drops aid over Gaza – video

US drops aid over Gaza

US drops aid over Gaza

Representative Ro Khanna said there should be consequences for Israel for standing in the way of US humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“We should make it clear we're not going to continue to transfer weapons,” he told CBS.

“The policy of bear-hugging [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has not worked.”

He added that Mr Biden should “call for a ceasefire” in Gaza and be the first president to “recognise a Palestinian state” and “have a two-state solution”.

Negotiators are currently engaged in talks in Cairo over a framework that may lead to a temporary ceasefire.

US officials said on Saturday that Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week halt if Hamas commits to handing over hostages categorised as vulnerable – but the talks got off to a bad start on Sunday as Hamas refused Israel's demand for information on the estimated 130 hostages still held by the militant group.

The war has turned into a political risk for Mr Biden, who is running for re-election.

About 100,000 voters – more than 13 per cent of those who voted – turned in “uncommitted” ballots in the Michigan primary after calls by activists to protest against Mr Biden's support for Israel.

Updated: March 03, 2024, 8:02 PM