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Israel-Palestine war: Two dozen US lawmakers urge Biden to call for ceasefire in Gaza

Letter from US progressives also raises concerns over Gaza's children, who make up nearly 40 percent of those killed by Israel
Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib attend a rabbis news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in Washington on 13 November 2023.
Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib attend a news conference in Washington DC calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, on 13 November 2023 (AFP)

A group of more than two dozen Democratic members of US Congress has signed a letter urging the Biden administration to agree to a ceasefire and an end to Israel's assault on Gaza. A growing number of Democrats now support a complete halt to the fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The letter, spearheaded by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Betty McCollum, and Mark Pocan, states that without a call for a bilateral ceasefire, "this war will lead to a further loss of civilian life" and will also risk dragging the US into a "dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East".

"We thank the President for calling for a humanitarian pause so that humanitarian aid may flow and diplomacy may take place," said the letter, which also included signatures from Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, and Ayanna Pressley.

"However, given the present lack of an apparent and clear strategic plan, we encourage a redoubling of efforts to achieve rapid de-escalation through a ceasefire and robust, regional engagement that includes international humanitarian organizations."

US President Joe Biden and his administration have so far turned down calls from rights groups, Palestinians, and 120 UN member states calling for Israel to agree to a ceasefire. There is also dissent growing within the Biden administration itself, with multiple dissent cables showing that many Biden administration staffers are in favour of a ceasefire.

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A recent poll released on Wednesday also found that nearly 70 percent of American respondents are in favour of calling for Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

And while the majority of Congress continues to oppose ceasefire calls, a growing number of congressional staffers have begun to push for a halt to Israel's assault on Gaza.

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Last month, a small group of progressive lawmakers introduced legislation urging the Biden administration to call for a cessation of the fighting. That bill currently has 17 cosponsors.

"War and retaliatory violence doesn’t achieve accountability or justice; it only leads to more death and human suffering," Congresswoman Bush said in a statement announcing the bill.

Killing of children in Gaza

The congressional letter also highlights concerns over the high number of child casualties in Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

Out of the more than 11,000 Palestinians killed by Israel's aerial bombardment and ground invasion of the enclave, nearly 40 percent have been children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

According to this tally, one in every 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel. Last week, the World Health Organisation said that Israel's bombardment was reaching a point where at least one Palestinian child was being killed every 10 minutes.

"We are profoundly shocked by the grave violations of children's rights in the context of armed conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory," the letter said.

"International norms require that all parties to an armed conflict protect children and prevent the commission of grave violations against them, including killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment and use of children, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access."

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