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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Murphy among Senate Democrats telling Biden to rein in Israel

    Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)
    An Israeli armored personnel carrier (APC) moves near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

    Democratic senators called on President Joe Biden to press Israel for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, citing recent deaths of Palestinian civilians in its war with Hamas and what they portrayed as a lagging U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis.

    “This killing has to stop, of the innocent people there,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said on CNN’s "State of the Union." “The medical situation on the ground there is horrible, horrible.”

    Hamas said it’s holding talks in Cairo starting Sunday on a framework that may lead lead to a temporary cease-fire in Gaza. U.S. officials said Saturday that Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week halt if Hamas commits to handing over hostages categorized as vulnerable, including women, the ill or injured and the elderly.

    With the Biden administration under domestic political pressure to address the suffering of Palestinian civilians, U.S. and Jordanian forces airdropped some 38,000 meals along the coast of Gaza on Saturday. More airdrops are planned.

    “This notion of airdrops — I support that, but that is not going to solve the problem,” Durbin said. He urged the administration to “push for the cease-fire and the 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.

    Last week, dozens of Palestinians were killed or injured during an outbreak of violence near an aid convoy in northern Gaza. Israel said it would review the incident and has denied its troops shot at people, saying that most victims were trampled or hit in the chaos.

    “I think it is time for the president to use all the leverage that he has to get a long-term cease-fire. I think if that cease-fire doesn’t come, it’s in Israel’s interest for them to pause military activity to solve the humanitarian crisis,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who chairs a Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East, said Sunday on ABC’s "This Week."

    The head of the European Council condemned the “killing of innocent civilians” waiting for food and called for an independent inquiry into the incident. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the criticism, accusing Israeli troops of targeting civilians.

    More than 30,000 Palestinians have died, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, since Israel launched its assault after Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, which left about 1,200 people dead and 250 others kidnapped by Hamas.

    Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union

    The war has turned into a political risk for Biden in the U.S., where some 100,000 voters, or more than 13%, turned in “uncommitted” primary ballots in Michigan after calls by activists to protest his support of Israel. In San Francisco, pro-Palestinian protesters nearly penetrated the security perimeter around Biden’s motorcade last month.

    The Israel-Hamas was has tested traditional broad support in Congress for a long-standing ally.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin said he opposes tightening conditions for further military aid to Israel.

    “Israel is our ally,” the Maryland Democrat said on Fox News Sunday. “ Israel is in a fight for its security. It needs to defend itself.”

    _____

    With assistance from Victoria Cavaliere and Reade Pickert

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