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Kaine Issues Statement on Latest Developments in Israel-Hamas Conflict

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees—released the following statement regarding the latest developments in the Israel-Hamas conflict:

“Like so many Virginians, I remain deeply distressed by the daily reports of new and horrific developments in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Hostages taken by Hamas during its vicious attack nearly six months ago—including six Americans—have not been released. Thousands of Israeli families have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed.

“Recent events have made plain that much more needs to be done to protect innocent life. This is particularly the case regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. The aid is needed to avert famine and disease. But despite constant pressure from the United States, other nations, and international organizations, the amount of aid allowed by Israel to enter Gaza has been painfully slow and dramatically inadequate.

“The Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy this week crystallizes the frustration that is at a boiling point. The killing of seven volunteers exemplifies that current conditions make it nearly impossible for NGOs and international organizations to safely and swiftly deliver humanitarian aid to suffering people. The attack raises questions about whether the U.S. can safely partner with these groups to deliver aid from a marine pier into Gaza. U.S. troops involved in such a mission will likely include Virginians. They shouldn’t be in harm’s way as they provide life-sustaining aid, but the unfolding events in the region show that even a humanitarian aid mission carries real danger.

“I applaud President Biden for successfully urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to open another border crossing from Israel to allow robust delivery of humanitarian aid. But this was an obvious solution that should have happened months ago. It follows a similar pattern of lengthy delay before Israel allowed the Kerem Shalom crossing to be used to provide aid to hundreds of thousands of people who had been instructed to move into Southern Gaza. If Israel had allowed existing border crossings to be used to allow life-sustaining aid to reach Gaza, there would be no need for dangerous air-drops or complicated plans for building marine piers.

“I worked with colleagues and the Administration to announce National Security Memorandum 20 in February. NSM-20 contains a non-controversial requirement that nations receiving U.S. security assistance must cooperate with U.S.-supported humanitarian relief efforts.  My daily involvement in this matter since October convinces me that Israel is falling far short of this requirement.

“The United States has time and again stood with Israel as a friend, partner and ally. And no one has been as steadfast a partner as President Biden. But as the President emphasized in his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, the current approach is not working. There is need for immediate progress on a deal to free the hostages and establish a significant ceasefire in which humanitarian aid can flow to suffering people without fear of military attack. Such a deal will de-escalate the widening regional tensions and open up room for a much-needed and long-delayed discussion about Palestinian autonomy. But even as we exert all energy to find such a path forward, I urge the Administration to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that sufficient aid reaches Gaza. It is in Israel’s immediate and long-term interest to not block such efforts but to cooperate with them.

“In addition, the United States should join in the call for an independent and international investigation into Monday’s strike on World Central Kitchen volunteers, in which an American was killed. Finally, I renew my request that the Biden Administration prioritize the transfer of defensive weapons in all arms sales to Israel while withholding bombs and other offensive weapons that can kill and wound civilians and humanitarian aid workers. Israel must have the capacity to defend itself against those—like Hamas—who would annihilate it. But more offensive weapons delivered at this moment will only further widen suffering in Israel, Gaza and the region.”

Kaine has repeatedly reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas following Hamas’ horrific October 7 terrorist attacks and the need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He’s taken a series of steps to prioritize the release of hostages taken by Hamas, including directly engaging the Qatari and Egyptian governments, protect civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and counter threats to Israel from Hamas and Iran.

Consistent with Kaine’s years-long efforts to ensure that Congress plays an assertive and deliberate role in matters of war and peace, Kaine raised concerns over the Biden Administration’s decision last December to transfer weapons to Israel without congressional oversight. He also worked alongside his colleagues and the Biden Administration to establish a National Security Memorandum to require that U.S. security assistance is used in line with international law and to create robust reporting requirements on the use of U.S. weapons in conflict. In February, following reports of a pending major weapons transfer from the U.S. to Israel, Kaine urged the Administration to ensure that the transfer is comprised primarily of defensive weapons critical to the security of the Israeli people, such as restocking the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems.