Cease-fire coalition

Twenty-four House Democrats call for a cease-fire, accuse Israel of ‘grave violations against children’

The letter does not acknowledge or address Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks at a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the U.S. Capitol building on November 13, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

A group of 24 House Democrats called for a cease-fire in Israel’s war with Hamas, and accused Israel of “grave violations against children” in a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday.

The letter, led by left-wing Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), states that the lawmakers are “profoundly shocked by the grave violations of children’s rights,” and raises concerns about strikes on schools, residential and civilian areas, and shutdowns of medical facilities in Gaza.

The letter does not acknowledge or address Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza or its stationing of rocket launch sites, other military capabilities and personnel inside civilian locations, or reports that Hamas has prevented the provision of aid to hospitals and stopped civilians from fleeing violence. It does not mention the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israel or directly call on Hamas to release its hostages.

It does offer “unequivocal condemnation” of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and hostage-taking and alludes in broad terms to bans in international law on “recruitment and use of children, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access.”

The lawmakers call for an “immediate cessation of hostilities in order to stop the bombing and provide for much-needed relief to Palestinian civilians,” without addressing Hamas’ position on a cease-fire.

The supporters of a cease-fire remain largely confined to far-left lawmakers who’ve been critical of Israel in the past, but the latest call includes several members — Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) — who had stopped short of calling for a cease-fire until now.

The letter states that the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza are commendable, but claims they have “had limited impact on the ground so far and, we believe, risks undermining the United States’ own credibility in the region.”

It also asks for “clarity on the specific strategic objectives of a large-scale ground invasion, their achievability, what may come after Hamas, the risks to hostages and civilians in the region, the national security implications of a multi-front war in the Middle East, and the potential threats to American citizens in the region.”

It makes the case that the U.S.’s current posture “risk[s] dragging “the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East.”

The letter was also signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), James McGovern (D-MA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Delia Ramirez (D-IL), Greg Casar (D-TX), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IL), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Summer Lee (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Several of the signatories, including Ocasio-Cortez, Castro and Casar, attended Tuesday’s screening of Hamas attack footage. 

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) separately released a statement calling for “negotiations seeking a deal on a ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages.” He elaborated that he wants to see an initial truce to release hostages and provide humanitarian aid followed by a more “durable ceasefire” and negotiations for a “new political and security architecture for Gaza.”

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