A crowd of starving Palestinians, including children

A crowd of starving Palestinians, including children, wait to receive food distributed by charity organizations amid Israel's blockade in Jabalia refugee camp, Gaza on March 27, 2024.

(Photo: Mahmoud Issa/Anadolu via Getty Images)

House Dems Tell Biden to 'Enforce US Law' as Israel Obstructs Gaza Aid

"Israel’s restriction of this aid and Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal to address U.S. concerns on this issue is absolutely unacceptable," wrote six House Democrats.

While United Nations experts and human rights groups around the world continue to call on U.S. President Biden to end his support for Israel as it bombards Gaza and blocks aid, six House Democrats told the president that his policy in the region is a straightforward violation of U.S. law, and must change immediately.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) led lawmakers including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in calling on Biden to "enforce U.S. law" with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government.

With Israel continuing to block aid to Gaza—even as the International Food Security Phase Classification initiative (IPC) warns that parts of northern Gaza are already facing famine—the lawmakers said Netanyahu is "repeatedly interfering in U.S. humanitarian operations in direct violation of the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act—Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961."

The Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act states that the U.S. cannot provide military aid to any country that is prohibiting or restricting the delivery of U.S. assistance into an area.

Despite State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller's claim this week that Israel is complying with international humanitarian law "when it comes to the conduct of the war or the provision of humanitarian assistance," the International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Israel to ensure the delivery of urgently needed aid and warned that "famine is setting in" due to Israel's actions.

"The need to deliver humanitarian aid by any means possible has never been more pressing," wrote the lawmakers on Thursday. "This fact was emphasized by your administration's decision to begin airdropping supplies into Gaza in recent weeks, and your announcement of U.S. participation in constructing a temporary port in Gaza to expand the flow of aid."

"Israel's restriction of this aid and Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal to address U.S. concerns on this issue is absolutely unacceptable," they said.

The letter follows similar calls from U.S. senators and more than two dozen human rights groups who earlier pointed out that Biden need look no further than the Foreign Assistance Act to know that the U.S. can no longer provide Israel with military support.

"This law is very straightforward," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told NPR earlier this month. "It's clearly triggered by the facts on the ground in Gaza, where we now have kids who have literally died of starvation, and hundreds of thousands of people on the verge of starvation, with 4 out of the 5 hungriest people in the world today in Gaza."

McCollum and her colleagues wrote that Biden must also "reassess how our assistance is provided to Israel" if it moves forward with plans to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, "a move that would put the 1.5 million Palestinians displaced from other parts of Gaza in imminent danger and exacerbate the rate of disease, starvation, and death in the conflict."

"We echo our colleagues in the U.S. Senate in imploring you to enforce U.S. law with the Netanyahu government," wrote McCollum and her colleagues. "Mr. President, the situation in Gaza is dire. Immediate action from the United States is necessary to stop further loss of civilian life, and we urge you to use every tool at your disposal to end the suffering in this crisis and to keep this conflict from expanding."

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