Kamala Harris slams Israel over Gaza crisis, calls for ceasefire and hostage release

Kamala Harris on Gaza

Selma: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday delivered a scathing criticism of Israel for its handling of the Gaza crisis, accusing it of failing to address the humanitarian catastrophe and the plight of the hostages held by Hamas. Harris also urged Hamas to agree to a ceasefire deal and release the hostages in exchange for a six-week pause in hostilities.

Harris speaks from a symbolic location

Harris made her remarks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where she attended an event to commemorate the 59th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, a historic moment in the civil rights movement when state troopers brutally attacked Black American protesters who were marching for equal voting rights.

Harris drew a parallel between the struggle for justice and dignity in the US and in Gaza, saying that “our common humanity compels us to act”. She said that the people of Gaza were suffering from starvation, inhumane conditions, and lack of basic services and that the Israeli government had to do more to significantly increase the flow of aid into the besieged territory.

“No excuses,” Harris said, adding that the US was working to get more aid through every available channel, including airdrops. She also praised the efforts of the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said that expanding the flow of aid into Gaza was imperative to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.

Harris calls for ceasefire and hostage release

Harris also addressed the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has claimed over 29,000 lives, mostly women and children, according to Gazan authorities (backed by Hamas). Harris called for an immediate ceasefire and urged Hamas to accept a deal that would release the hostages in return for a six-week cessation of hostilities.

“Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza,” Harris said.

Harris’ remarks came after Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday, saying that it would not negotiate with a terrorist organization that was holding its citizens captive. Hamas also rejected the demand for a complete list naming the hostages that are still alive, saying that it would only reveal their fate after a prisoner swap.

Harris to meet with Israeli official

Harris is scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday at the White House, where she is expected to deliver a similarly direct message, according to a report by Reuters. Harris is likely to press Gantz on the need to ease the blockade on Gaza, allow more humanitarian access, and respect the rights of the Palestinians.

Kamala Harris on Gaza

Harris’ comments also reflect the growing pressure that US President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection, is facing from the left of the Democratic Party to rein in US’ close ally as its war against Hamas in Gaza continues. Many progressive lawmakers and activists have called on Biden to condition US military aid to Israel on its compliance with international law and human rights standards.