VP Kamala Harris calls for Hamas to accept deal for ‘immediate cease-fire’

Vice President Kamala Harris called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and right to self-determination of Palestinians March 3, 2024. PHOTO: videograb X @KamalaHarris

In a tonal shift for the Biden administration, Vice President Harris on Sunday demanded that Israel allow more aid into the besieged Gaza Strip and told Hamas to accept a deal for a six-week cease-fire that would allow such aid to reach people who are cut off from food, water and medical care.

“Hamas claims it wants a cease-fire,” Harris said at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. “Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal.”

The Biden administration has pushed to conclude a months-long effort to secure a cease-fire in Gaza before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins March 10. A White House official said this weekend that Israel had agreed to elements of a cease-fire deal and that the onus is on Hamas to respond.

But Harris also rebuked Israel over conditions in Gaza, affirming signs that Washington’s relationship with one of its closest allies has frayed as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens and President Biden faces opposition at home for his support of Israel as it conducts a punishing military campaign.

“The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid,” Harris said. “No excuses.”

Biden also pressed Israel to allow more aid into Gaza on Friday when he announced that the U.S. would launch an airdrop of aid to the besieged strip. Harris on Sunday reiterated the administration’s stance with a list of demands: that Israel open new border crossings into Gaza, ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted, and restore basic services in the region.

“What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating,” Harris said.

Harris made the comments days after more than 100 people were killed in Gaza City while converging at a humanitarian aid convoy, an incident she called a “horrific tragedy.” The United States launched its first airdrop of aid for Gaza on Saturday, though humanitarian groups and administration officials said those will not be enough to prevent famine. The administration is assessing maritime options for sending more food, water and fuel.

Despite the rebuke, Harris reiterated the administration’s support for Israel and said that “the threat Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated.” Harris said a cease-fire would facilitate the release of the dozens of hostages still held by Hamas.

The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure from the wings of the Democratic Party to prompt a cease-fire in Gaza. During Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, about 101,000 people voted “uncommitted” instead of Biden, who received about 620,000 votes. Although the Biden campaign noted that the results were not out of line with previous votes, Arab American advocates said the unexpectedly high number was a sign that the president is losing support among traditionally staunch supporters because of his administration’s steadfast support for Israel.

Harris was scheduled to meet Monday with Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel’s war cabinet and rival to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House in a visit that has drawn the ire of the Israeli government, according to the Associated Press. She will express the administration’s desire for more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, according to a White House official who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss the encounter that the Biden administration had not publicly announced. Gantz’s National Unity Party said he would also meet with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the trip, the AP reported.

Harris made the comments in Selma during a speech for the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when a group of civil rights protesters marching out of Selma were attacked by state troopers on March 7, 1965.



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