Sen. Bernie Sanders

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to the media outside of the White House on July 17, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Sanders Says 'Children and Innocent People Do Not Deserve to Be Punished for Acts of Hamas'

"The targeting of civilians is a war crime, no matter who does it," said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called Israel's total siege of the Gaza Strip a breach of international law and urged the Biden administration to work with the global community to bring about an end to the escalating violence, which has already taken a grisly toll on civilians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

"For many, it is no secret that Gaza has been an open-air prison, with millions of people struggling to secure basic necessities," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. "Hamas' terrorism will make it much more difficult to address that tragic reality and will embolden extremists on both sides, continuing the cycle of violence."

The senator added that while he welcomes the Biden administration's offer of "solidarity and support to Israel" in the wake of Hamas' deadly attack, "we must also insist on restraint from Israeli forces attacking Gaza and work to secure U.N. humanitarian access."

"Let us not forget that half of the 2 million people in Gaza are children," said Sanders. "Children and innocent people do not deserve to be punished for the acts of Hamas."

Hundreds of children and more than 1,000 people overall have been killed by Israeli airstrikes that began raining down on the densely populated Gaza Strip on Saturday after Hamas gunmen broke through Israel's border structure and massacred hundreds of civilians.

UNICEF warned earlier this week that Israel's decision to cut off the electricity supply to Gaza and block food, water, and fuel from entering the enclave in response to the Hamas attack "may put the lives of children at risk."

On Wednesday, Gaza's last operational power plant shut down due to a lack of fuel, forcing increasingly overwhelmed hospitals to rely on generators. Gazan authorities said the situation on the ground is quickly spiraling into a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Sanders said Wednesday that the focus of the international community should be on "reducing humanitarian suffering and protecting innocent people on both sides of this conflict" as Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza and continues its bombing campaign, leveling entire neighborhoods and damaging schools, medical facilities, and other civilian infrastructure.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that American weaponry is headed to Israel and did not call for a cease-fire, unlike a growing number of U.S. lawmakers and government officials around the world. Biden also did not mention the Israeli blockade, which Sanders described as "a serious violation of international law" that "will do nothing but harm innocent civilians."

"The targeting of civilians is a war crime, no matter who does it," Sanders said.

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