U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attend a rally in support of Israel on October 9, 2023. On November 3 they called for a "cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hamas.

(Photo: Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Amid Public Outcry Over Gaza Carnage, 13 Senators Call for 'Cessation of Hostilities'

"Keep up the pressure, friends," said one peace advocate. "It's working."

As mass protests and polling demonstrate the wide gap between the United States government's support for Israel's massacre of civilians in Gaza and the public's views on the Israel-Hamas War, with thousands of Palestinian rights supporters demanding a cease-fire, 13 Democratic senators appeared to be swayed by the public pressure late Thursday when they called for a "cessation of hostilities."

The call was led by U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), with Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) joining.

As the Biden administration called for humanitarian "pauses" to "get aid in, get people out," but resisted demands for a cease-fire, the senators suggested their statement was prompted by Israel's "failure to adequately protect noncombatant civilians" and ensure humanitarian aid can be distributed as it pummels the blockaded Gaza Strip with airstrikes funded by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The killing of at least 9,227 Palestinians—including at least 3,760 children—while Israel has claimed to be targeting Hamas and justifying civilian deaths by saying the group is using Gaza residents as "human shields," said the senators, "risks dramatic escalation of the conflict in the region and imposes severe damage on prospects for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians."

"Based on the consensus opinion of U.S. and international aid officials, it is nearly impossible to deliver sufficient humanitarian aid to protect civilian life under current conditions," they added. "Thus, we join President Biden in his call for a short-term cessation of hostilities that pose high-risk to civilians, aid workers, or humanitarian aid delivery in Gaza."

The cessation in fighting would allow delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, where Israel cut off civilians' access to fuel, electricity, food, and water after Hamas' attack on southern Israel on October 7. It would also provide an "increased focus on the release of all hostages kidnapped" by Hamas and "opportunity for broader discussion amongst Israeli and Palestinian leadership, together with regional and global partners, about long-term strategies to reduce decadeslong conflict in the region."

The senators said Israel must meet its obligations under international law to "minimize harm to civilians."

While members of the U.S. Senate have not joined calls for a cease-fire—a negotiated, binding agreement to cease hostilities—progressive U.S. House members including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have been making that demand since mid-October.

Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and Susan Wild (D-Pa.) have also demanded a cessation of hostilities, which can be nonbinding and provisional.

Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke on the Senate floor about the need for a "humanitarian pause," frustrating some advocates who have demanded that the vocal anti-war lawmaker join calls for a cease-fire.

Author Steven Thrasher noted that in an interview on CNN Thursday, Durbin was asked if a cease-fire is needed now to protect civilian lives.

"I think it is," said the senator, adding that it could allow for the release of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7—an offer Hamas made last week in exchange for Israel's agreement to a cease-fire.

"Keep up the pressure, friends," said Thrasher. "It's working. Consider no politician a lost cause."

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