A group of House Democrats led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is calling on President Joe Biden to demand a “robust bilateral ceasefire” in Gaza as reports say over 1 in 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in just the last six weeks amid Israel’s siege and genocide.
The letter, signed by 24 House Democrats in total, urges Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call for a ceasefire in order to end the carnage in Gaza. The group, led also by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), says they are especially concerned with the “grave violations” against the rights of children in the region.
“We write to you to express deep concern about the intensifying war in Gaza, particularly grave violations against children, and our fear that without an immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a robust bilateral ceasefire, this war will lead to a further loss of civilian life and risk dragging the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East,” the lawmakers said.
“We reaffirm our unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas attacks on Israel that took place on October 7th, in which Hamas killed over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals, and captured over 200 hostages, who were subsequently taken to Gaza,” the group continued. “We also share dire concerns with the ongoing Israeli response, in which the Israeli Defense Forces have killed over 11,078 Palestinians, nearly half of whom have been children.”
The lawmakers detail some of the atrocities that Palestinians in Gaza have faced in the past weeks, including Israeli forces’ assault on residential neighborhoods, refugee camps and other United Nations shelters, as well as Israel’s blockade of basic needs like food, water and electricity.
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, Pocan and McCollum, the letter was also signed by Democratic Representatives Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), Cori Bush (Missouri), Jim McGovern (Massachusetts), Mary Gay Scanlon (Pennsylvania), Raúl Grijalva (Arizona), Pramila Jayapal (Washington), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Delia C. Ramirez (Illinois), Hank Johnson (Georgia), Greg Casar (Texas), Jesús “Chuy” García (Illinois), Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey), Nydia M. Velázquez (New York), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Jonathan L. Jackson (Illinois), Barbara Lee (California), André Carson (Indiana), Jamaal Bowman (New York), Summer Lee (Pennsylvania), Veronica Escobar (Texas) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota).
The signatories included four lawmakers who had not previously voiced support for a ceasefire in Gaza, bringing the total number of members of Congress in support of the idea to 31.
As the letter was made public on Wednesday, Israeli forces were carrying out a long raid of the largest hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa Hospital, where there were hundreds of staff and patients and thousands of residents taking shelter in the hospital grounds.
The hospital has been turned into a war zone, with Israeli forces stripping the clothes of some staff members and people taking shelter inside and blindfolding them while arresting them. The troops have closed in on the hospital in recent days, and thousands are trapped in the facility, including dozens of newborn babies. Doctors have been forced to perform manual respiration on the babies in order to keep them alive because of the fuel embargo imposed by Israel.
The assault on al-Shifa came just hours after U.S. Pentagon officials repeated Israel’s supposed justification for invading the hospital, saying that Hamas is using it as a base, even as human rights groups have said that Israel’s hospital attacks should be investigated as war crimes. In fact, analysts have drawn parallels between Israel’s claims about Hamas and the U.S.’s own false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which were used as an excuse to launch a devastating war in the Middle East.
In their letter, the lawmakers similarly invoke the U.S.’s “mistakes in the aftermath of September 11th” and say that Biden should heed his own words about the U.S.’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — conflicts that in hindsight, Biden said, required “being deliberate” as he advised Israel’s leaders in an address after the October 7 attack to make “an honest assessment about whether the path you are on will achieve [your] objectives.”
The lawmakers say that Biden should acknowledge that further military activity will not bring about lasting peace in the region. Thus far, even as Biden and other top officials have been careful to use softer language about Israel’s attacks in public, the Biden administration has in private been expanding its military aid to Israel while internally suppressing lower-level administration staff who have spoken up against the genocide.
“Recognizing that there is no military solution that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we urge your Administration to obtain clarity on the specific strategic objectives of a large-scale ground invasion, their achievability, what may come after Hamas, the risks to hostages and civilians in the region, the national security implications of a multi-front war in the Middle East, and the potential threats to American citizens in the region,” they wrote.
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