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Israel-Palestine: Bernie Sanders introduces resolution calling for ceasefire

Meanwhile, 130 members of US Congress send a letter to President Biden urging him to take action as the onslaught on Gaza continues
Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday delivered an impassioned defence of Palestinian rights while introducing a resolution on the Senate floor calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza (AFP/file photo)

Two US Senators on Wednesday introduced competing resolutions on the crisis in Gaza - one calling for an immediate ceasefire and the other voicing support for Israel.

"Whereas every Palestinian life matters. And whereas, every Israeli life matters," says the resolution introduced by Bernie Sanders and backed by several Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy. 

"Now therefore be it resolved that the Senate urges an immediate ceasefire to prevent any further loss of life, and further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories and supports diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict to uphold international law and to protect the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians."

Sanders delivered an impassioned defence of Palestinian rights while introducing the resolution on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

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He slammed the Republican-led resolution introduced by Rick Scott for failing to express sympathy for the killing of Palestinians. In fact, Scott's resolution only mentions the word "Palestinian" to refer to what it called "Hamas and its Palestinian terrorist allies".

Both resolutions, if passed, would be symbolic measures that are non-binding.

Calls to block arms sale to Israel

Earlier on Wednesday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with a group of progressive lawmakers, introduced a resolution to block a $735m arms deal to Israel.

Palestinian rights activists described the move as historic. The effort in the House of Representatives was the first of its kind when it comes to Israel. 

But it will be short-lived if it is not adopted by at least one legislator in the Senate, making it a joint resolution that would force a vote in the upper chamber of Congress that would at least delay the sale.

Progressive and Palestine solidarity activists are turning to Sanders - as the most outspoken senator on Palestinian rights - to pick up the fight.

The deadline for pausing the sale for review is on Friday, so a Senate resolution must be introduced by the end of Thursday.

Congressional approval is not needed for arms sales, but the lawmakers can veto sales by passing joint resolutions of disapproval in both the House and the Senate.

Presidents, in turn, have veto power to block legislation objecting to arms sales. Lawmakers can override a presidential veto with two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress.

In all likelihood, the arms deal for Israel will not be blocked, but activists are hoping to open an unprecedented debate about America's military relationship with Israel in Congress.

Lawmakers call for ceasefire

A group of 130 members of US Congress on Wednesday sent a letter to Biden demanding that he call for a ceasefire in the war on Gaza.

"Too many people have already died. More will unnecessarily perish if America does not act with the immediacy this violence demands," read the letter.

It was signed by a number of House Democrats including Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Joaquin Castro, and Ro Khanna.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a call by Biden to de-escalate.

In a statement that followed a phone conversation with the US president on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he "really appreciates" the international support Israel has received, particularly "the support given by the president of our friend, the United States, Joe Biden, for the State of Israel's right to self-defense". 

During the call, the US president had told Netanyahu that he "expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire", according to a White House statement.

Netanyahu, however, said he was "determined to carry on with this operation" in the Gaza Strip until "calm and security are restored to Israeli citizens". 

Hamas predicts imminent ceasefire

Later on Wednesday, two Hamas officials predicted an imminent ceasefire between Gaza and Israel thanks to mediation efforts by Egypt and Qatar currently underway.

In a statement to CNN Arabic, a Hamas leader said there is a "positive atmosphere" surrounding the talks to reach an agreement with Israel "thanks to the support of our Egyptian and Qatari brothers" who proposed various solutions.

The official added that "the general demands of the Palestinian people are still clear: an end to the Israeli aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, an end to the Israeli aggression on Gaza, and a mechanism for the reconstruction of Gaza after the Israeli destruction".

Another Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzook, told Al-Mayadeen news channel earlier on Wednesday that he expects a ceasefire within two days, despite Netanyahu's pledge to carry on the bombing of Gaza.

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