No More Bombs to Israel While Gazans Starve

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Sen. Chris Van Hollen called on President Joe Biden to stop sending weapons to Israel while Palestinians in Gaza are “literally starving to death.”

Van Hollen reiterated his calls for “a ceasefire and a return of all the hostages” in Gaza while imploring Biden to cease sending munitions to Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Until the Netanyahu government allows more assistance into Gaza, to help people who are literally starving to death, we should not be sending more bombs,” Van Hollen said when appearing on ABC’s This Week Sunday.

The senator noted that Biden has issued two requests to Israel: to allow more humanitarian aid to cross the border into Gaza and not to invade the southern city of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians have sought refuge from bombings in the north. But Israel has continued to block aid to the enclave and is bombarding Rafah from the sky.

“It’s my view that as part of a partnership, we should get those assurances for the Netanyahu government upfront, rather than just send weapons now and ask questions later,” Van Hollen said, adding that Biden should “use our leverage” to press Israel on Biden’s requests.

“We have a situation where the Netanyahu government continues to rebuff the president of the United States time and time again, ignores reasonable requests. And what do we do? We say we’re going to send more bombs,” Van Hollen said. “My view is that a partnership needs to be a two-way street, not a one-way blank check with American taxpayer dollars. So, this is not about saying we’re not going to provide any more weapons. It’s about saying, hey, we have requests. Don’t let people starve to death.”

Van Hollen added that there is “no doubt” that Israel is blocking aid from entering Gaza, which he called “a violation of international humanitarian law.” He additionally said that Israeli government officials “have taken steps to block aid into Gaza.”

“That is a war crime,” he said.

Israel’s military action in Gaza has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians — likely an undercount as many thousands remain missing. The U.S. State Department announced this week that famine is already probably present in some areas of northern Gaza while Gazans in other areas are at risk of starvation.

“While we can say with confidence that famine is a significant risk in the south and center but not present, in the north, it is both a risk and quite possibly is present in at least some areas,” a state department official told Reuters on Friday.

The United Nations’ Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) issued a report earlier this month that estimated famine will reach northern Gaza by May and could spread throughout the entirety of Gaza by July. The U.N. Security Council voted Monday to demand an immediate ceasefire and return of all hostages, with the U.S. abstaining from the vote. The European Union last week said Israel is provoking famine and using starvation as a weapon of war. In January, the International Criminal Court said Israel may have committed acts of genocide in Gaza.

“In Gaza we are no longer on the brink of famine, we are in a state of famine, affecting thousands of people,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday.

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“I’m just saying to President Biden, you said ‘no excuses’ when it comes to getting humanitarian aid into Gaza,” Van Hollen said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to drag his feet. So, instead of just sending more bombs without in turn getting the request that you want, Mr. President, let’s at least make this a partnership.”

He added, “We have a situation where Netanyahu continues to essentially, you know, give the finger to the president of the United States, and we’re sending more bombs. So, that doesn’t make sense.”

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