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aid argument

Van Hollen accuses Israel of ‘war crime,’ says U.S. aid should be suspended

'Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,’ Van Hollen alleged, an allegation vigorously denied by an Israeli government official

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) accused Israel of a “textbook war crime” in a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, calling on the administration to suspend aid to the U.S. ally.

Van Hollen accused Israel of deliberately obstructing food aid from being provided to Gaza for the purpose of causing starvation inside the territory, an allegation vigorously denied by an Israeli government official on Tuesday. 

“Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,” Van Hollen alleged. “That is a war crime — it is a textbook war crime. That makes those who orchestrate it war criminals. So now the question is, what will the United States do?”

Van Hollen said the administration must “demand that the Netanyahu government” allow more food, water and humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Until that happens, Van Hollen continued, the administration should invoke provisions of U.S. foreign assistance law banning arms exports to any country that impedes the provision of U.S. humanitarian assistance. Even so, Van Hollen said he’d vote for additional aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan because he supports Ukraine assistance.

In response to Van Hollen’s remarks, an Israeli government official told Jewish Insider, “The only people withholding food from kids in Gaza are Hamas, which is hijacking aid. That’s a war crime, and UNRWA is complicit with it by covering it up.” 

“Israel has excess capacity at its crossings for as much food, water, medicine, and shelter equipment as international donors want to send,” the official added. “Just yesterday, seven times more humanitarian aid trucks entered Gaza via Israel compared with Rafah. Countries that want more aid to enter Gaza should send more. And they should replace UNRWA with experienced aid agencies that will do their jobs instead of covering up for Hamas.”

He said he asked the State Department three weeks ago to explain why this provision had not been implemented, but hadn’t received an answer because “there is no good answer to that question.” He also blasted Israeli officials, accusing them of ignoring U.S. entreaties to protect civilians and provide further humanitarian aid.

Israel has said it’s doing all it can to facilitate humanitarian aid into Gaza and working as expeditiously as possible to inspect deliveries into Gaza. The White House announced last month that Israel would permit the shipment of flour to Gaza through its Ashdod port. Some of Van Hollen’s colleagues, including Democrats, have raised concerns about aid being looted by or falling into the hands of Hamas, and have highlighted that the terrorist group had smuggled massive amounts of military equipment into the enclave, despite inspections, prior to Oct. 7, and diverted significant volumes of humanitarian aid.

Van Hollen, the leader of a group of Senate Democrats critical of Israel’s operations in Gaza, recently led a push to condition aid to Israel, which resulted in a new White House memorandum placing new conditions and stricter oversight on all foreign military aid.

He said that the memorandum emphasizes the same mandate that Israel comply with U.S. humanitarian efforts.

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