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Senate Approves $95B Package With $17B in Unconditional Military Aid for Israel

Sanders condemned the Senate’s refusal to allow a vote on his amendment to cut military aid to Israel from the bill.

A girl salvages items from the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, on April 24, 2024 following Israeli air strikes.

With the support of nearly 80% of the chamber’s lawmakers, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a sprawling foreign aid package that includes $17 billion in unconditional military assistance for the Israeli government as it ramps up its catastrophic assault on the Gaza Strip.

The final vote on the $95 billion package, which also included military aid for Ukraine and Taiwan, was 79-18, with just three members of the Senate Democratic caucus — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — and 15 Republicans opposing the bill.

Sanders called Tuesday “a dark day for democracy,” condemning the upper chamber’s refusal to even allow a vote on his proposed amendment to cut offensive military aid to Israel from the legislation.

“I voted no tonight on the foreign aid package for one simple reason: U.S. taxpayers should not be providing billions more to the extremist Netanyahu government to continue its devastating war against the Palestinian people,” Sanders said in a statement following the vote. “Thirty-four thousand Palestinians have already been killed and 77,000 have been wounded — 70% of whom are women and children.”

“The housing in Gaza is destroyed; the infrastructure in Gaza is destroyed; the healthcare system in Gaza is destroyed; the educational system in Gaza is destroyed,” Sanders added. “Enough is enough. No more money for Netanyahu’s war machine.”

The bill, which passed the House over the weekend, now heads to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it in the coming days.

“That Congress passed many billions of dollars for new weaponry for Israel that will be used to devastate Gaza, and could be used in a war against Iran, is deeply disturbing,” said the National Iranian American Council.

Overwhelming congressional and White House support for arms and military support stands in stark contrast to U.S. public opinion, which has increasingly turned against Israel’s assault on Gaza in recent months as the grisly death toll and humanitarian emergency have worsened and evidence of Israeli war crimes has mounted.

As Tuesday’s vote took place, thousands of Jewish New Yorkers and allies rallied outside of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) home to voice outrage over U.S. lawmakers’ growing complicity in Israel’s military assault.

“We’re here as thousands of Jewish New Yorkers, calling on Senator Schumer to halt weapons funding to Israel as it massacres and starves Palestinians in Gaza,” said Eva Borgwardt, national spokesperson for IfNotNow, one of the groups that organized the mass demonstration on the second night of Passover.

A Gallup survey released last month found that 55% of U.S. voters — including 75% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 30% of Republicans — disapprove of Israel’s military assault on Gaza. A separate poll commissioned by the Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that a majority of American voters support halting U.S. weapons shipments to Israel.

Since October, the Biden administration has quietly approved more than 100 arms sales to Israel, flouting U.S. laws that prohibit weapons deliveries to countries that are violating human rights or blocking American humanitarian aid.

“As I have said countless times, sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government the munitions it is using to destroy Gaza is wrong and inconsistent with our foreign policy goals,” Welch said Tuesday after voting against the aid package. “It is unthinkable that an ally of the U.S. would conduct its military campaign with planes, tanks, bombs, and artillery supplied by the U.S., while impeding access for aid trucks to destitute civilians under its occupation.”

Days before the Senate vote, mass graves were discovered at two Gaza hospitals that Israeli forces recently raided and destroyed. The United Nations Human Rights Office on Tuesday demanded an international probe into the mass graves, noting that bodies of Palestinians were found stripped naked with their hands tied.

“Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

One Gaza official told CNN that a total of 300 bodies were found in a mass grave at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis and that “there were signs of field executions.”

“The U.S. government is arming a regime creating mass graves in Gaza, indeed turning all of Gaza into a mass graveyard,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, wrote on social media Tuesday.

On the heels of the Senate vote, Agence France-Presse noted that one of its correspondents and eyewitnesses “reported heavy bombardment of several areas of northern Gaza.”

“Early Wednesday, hospital and security sources in Gaza reported Israeli air strikes in Rafah, as well as the central Nuseirat refugee camp,” the outlet reported.

The anti-war group CodePink said in a statement after Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. Senate that “urgent calls for peace are loudly echoing across the country but seem to fall on deaf ears on Capitol Hill.”

“People and the planet desperately need healthcare, housing, and climate justice, not a further descent into darkness through this massive war bill that funds death and destruction,” the group added. “Every elected official who voted in favor of this bill has blood on their hands.”

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