Mar 3, 2024 - World

Harris calls for ceasefire, says "people in Gaza are starving"

Kamala Harris on Selma bridge

Kamala Harris speaks Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty

Vice President Kamala Harris said on Sunday that "people in Gaza are starving" and called for "an immediate ceasefire" as part of a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

Why it matters: Harris' remarks were the Biden administration's most comprehensive recognition of the suffering in Gaza and strongest appeal for a ceasefire.

  • They come as the Biden administration urgently pushes for a ceasefire and hostage deal before the holy month of Ramadan begins on March 10.
  • "Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next 6 weeks. This is what is currently on the table," she said, urging Hamas to accept such a deal.

What she's saying: "What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating. We have seen reports of families eating leaves and animal feed, children dying from malnutrition and dehydration. Too many innocent Palestinian have been killed," Harris said.

  • Harris called the situation in Gaza "inhumane" and "a humanitarian catastrophe" and said "our common humanity compels us to act."
  • She demanded the Israeli government do more to facilitate the flow of significantly more aid.
  • "No excuses. They must open new border crossings and not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian convoys are not targeted and restore basic services and order in Gaza so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need."

Harris was speaking in a symbolic place — the annual commemoration of 1965's "Bloody Sunday" crackdown by police on marchers in Selma, Alabama, one of the transformative moments in the U.S. civil rights movement.

  • The vice president referred to the an incident on Thursday in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed in the vicinity of an aid convoy.
  • "Desperate people approach aid trucks simply trying to secure food for their families… and they were met with gunfire and chaos," she said.

She also criticized Hamas and said the group can't continue to control Gaza.

  • "They have shown no regard for innocent lives including to the people of Gaza… the threat Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated," Harris added.

What's next: Harris is going to meet on Monday at the White House with Benny Gantz, a senior member of the Israeli war cabinet, to discuss the situation in Gaza and the proposed hostage deal.

Between the lines: Gantz, who will also meet Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main political rival. According to the polls, Gantz would defeat Netanyahu if elections were held today.

  • While White House officials say Gantz's visit is routine, the fact the White House decided to roll out the red carpet with such high-level meetings looks like a signal to both Netanyahu and the Israeli public.

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