25 Democratic senators call for temporary cease-fire, hostage release

The lawmakers said they continue to support Israel’s efforts to remove Hamas, but that a failure to reach a deal would be disastrous for Palestinians, hostages

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Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and fellow Senate Democrats prepare for a news conference at the U.S. Capitol to celebrate a new policy that demands recipients of foreign military aid adhere to international humanitarian law on Feb. 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-five Democratic senators joined a call on Wednesday to offer “urgent support” for efforts to reach a deal to free additional hostages from Gaza “in tandem with a restored mutual ceasefire in Gaza.”

The letter to President Joe Biden was led by Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). An Ossoff spokesperson clarified that the letter is seeking a temporary pause in the fighting, consistent with what has been publicly reported about the hostage talks.

“We recognize that such a diplomatic achievement will require the agreement of the warring parties, and that its terms remain under negotiation,” the letter reads. “In our judgment, it is in our urgent national interest — and the urgent humanitarian interest of millions of innocent civilians — that these negotiations succeed.”

The letter highlights both the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as well as the continuing plight of the hostages being held in the enclave.

The lawmakers said that they also “continue to support Israel’s pursuit” of its “vital national interest that Hamas — a brutal terrorist organization — be removed from power in Gaza.”

But they added that “without a break in the fighting, humanitarian conditions” in Gaza will deteriorate further and kill thousands, and that “the prospects are dim for the survival of hostages” without a diplomatic agreement to free them.

The lawmakers further argued that a pause in fighting is necessary to create opportunities for “the political conditions for durable peace and security” and regional conflict will continue to escalate.

The letter was co-signed by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chirs Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

The letter came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wouldn’t dispatch an Israeli representative to a new round of hostage negotiations with Hamas, accusing the terrorist group of sticking to unreasonable demands. U.S. officials have also been critical of the group’s response to Israel’s offer in the last round of talks.

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