Harris Calls for an ‘Immediate Cease-Fire’ in Gaza

The vice president urged Hamas to agree to a six-week cease-fire proposal and called on Israel to increase the flow of aid into the enclave.


Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday called for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza, saying that Hamas should agree to the six-week pause currently on the table and that Israel should increase the flow of aid into the besieged enclave amid a humanitarian crisis.

Ms. Harris’s remarks, delivered in Selma, Ala., bolstered a recent push by President Joe Biden for an agreement and came a day before she was to meet with a top Israeli cabinet official involved in war planning, Benny Gantz. Her tone echoed a sharper and more urgent tone coming from the White House as its frustration with Israel grows. Last month, the president called Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack “over the top.”

Ms. Harris assailed the dire conditions in Gaza, calling the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe.” It was her most forceful assessment to date of the Middle East conflict, which has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gazan health authorities, and put the enclave on the brink of famine.

“What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating,” Ms. Harris said. “We have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed. Women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care. And children dying from malnutrition and dehydration. As I have said many times, too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”

“The threat Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated,” Ms. Harris added. “And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate cease-fire, for at least the next six weeks.”

Mr. Biden has been pushing for a deal between Hamas and Israel that would allow for the release of hostages and a temporary cease-fire by Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that starts around March 10. U.S. officials said that Israel had “more or less accepted” terms of the deal, but Hamas has yet to agree to it.

Ms. Harris reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend itself against the ongoing threat from Hamas, which she said had no regard for innocent life in Israel or in Gaza. Ms. Harris called Hamas a “brutal terrorist organization” that poses a threat to Israel and should be eliminated.

“Hamas claims it wants a cease-fire,” she said. “Well, there is a deal on the table.”

Ms. Harris spoke at a time when the political consequences of the Biden administration’s unwavering support for Israel are beginning to come into sharper focus. While Mr. Biden has increasingly criticized Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack, his rejection of calls for a permanent cease-fire and a series of earlier missteps in showing a lack of empathy for Palestinians have divided the Democratic Party. They have also alienated key constituents, including Black, young and Arab American voters.

Opponents of the war and pro-Palestinian protesters have followed Mr. Biden to events across the country to protest his support for Israel in the war. Prominent Black faith leaders have called on the administration to halt financial assistance for Israel, alleging that its military campaign amounts to “mass genocide.”

In perhaps the most glaring warning sign to date, more than 100,000 people, many of them Arab Americans, voted “uncommitted” in Michigan’s primary last week — a preview of what could unfold in other key swing states that helped elect Mr. Biden in 2020.

Ms. Harris also said on Sunday that Israel must do more to allow for the flow of aid into Gaza, including opening new border crossings, lifting unnecessary restrictions on aid deliveries and restoring services to Gaza.

“People in Gaza are starving,” Ms. Harris said. “The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act.”

She condemned a scene that unfolded on Thursday, when more than 100 Gazans desperate for food descended on an aid convoy and were met with what Ms. Harris called “chaos and gunfire,” after Israel opened fire on the crowd.

Israeli and Palestinian officials and witnesses have offered different accounts of the episode, with Israeli officials blaming the crush of the crowd for most of the deaths, while witnesses described extensive gunfire by Israeli forces.

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