Wednesday, April 17, 2024

US VP calls for ‘immediate’ ceasefire in Gaza in rare rebuke of Israel

United States Vice President Kamala Harris has called for an “immediate ceasefire” in the besieged Gaza Strip while issuing a rare rebuke of Israel. The US government has been Israel's staunch supporter in Tel Aviv's military campaign in Gaza that has killed around 31,000 Palestinians so far.

“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table,” Harris said on Sunday.

“This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in.”

In some of the strongest criticism of Israel yet by the administration of US President Joe Biden, Harris stated Israel must do more to allow the delivery of aid, including opening new border crossings and committing not to impose “unnecessary restrictions”.

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris added during a speech to mark the violent suppression of civil rights protesters by police in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.

“The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.”

Harris also addressed Thursday’s incident during which 120 Palestinians were killed as they tried to access food aid in Gaza City, saying that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed”.

“Our hearts break for the victims of that horrific tragedy,” she added.

Harris also challenged Hamas to accept the terms of a ceasefire deal that US officials say has been broadly accepted by Israel.

“Hamas needs to agree to that deal,” she said, adding, “Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

Harris’s comments come as Biden is facing mounting pressure from left-leaning voters over his support for Israel ahead of November’s presidential election.

Democrats are increasingly concerned that Biden’s stance on the war could cost him votes, especially in Michigan, one of a handful of battleground states likely to decide the outcome of the election.

During the Democratic primary in Michigan last week, more than 100,000 voters cast a vote for “uncommitted” in a rebuke of the president’s position on Gaza.

Biden won Michigan, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, by only about 150,000 votes in 2020.

Former President Donald Trump carried Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016, becoming the first Republican to win the Midwestern state since 1988.

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