Kamala Harris Calls for ‘Immediate’ Gaza Ceasefire in Sharpest Rebuke Yet

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
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Vice President Kamala Harris called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza while commemorating the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama Sunday, characterizing the situation there as a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The strongly worded speech marked some of the most critical remarks yet voiced on the matter by a senior U.S. official.

“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire,” Harris said to applause, “for at least the next six weeks—which is what is currently on the table. This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in.

“This would allow us to build something more enduring,” she continued, “to ensure Israel is secure, and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination.”

Harris said that civilians inside Gaza “are starving” amid “inhumane” conditions, an acknowledgment of a United Nation official’s warning to the Security Council this week that at least a quarter of the besieged enclave’s population is “one step away from famine.” The vice president, in her speech, urged Israel to do more to significantly increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the area.

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“No excuses,” she said. “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 made her 18-minute speech before an audience gathered at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where on March 7, 1965 police officers attacked hundreds of demonstrators marching in support of voting rights. “The challenges we currently face are not unlike the challenges faced by those 600 brave souls 59 years ago,” she said.

President Joe Biden said Friday that he hoped a ceasefire deal could be secured ahead of the March 10 start of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer observed by Muslims. He also said that the U.S. would begin airdropping aid into Gaza. “The truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now,” he said. “It’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line, and children’s lives are on the line.”

The move came a day after chaos erupted around an aid convoy, resulting in the deaths of at least 115 Palestinians. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli soldiers had fired into the crowd, and the director of a Gaza City hospital told the Associated Press that the majority of the wounded had been hit by gunfire.

U.S. officials confirmed to The Observer over the weekend that Israel had agreed to the framework of a six-week agreement, but that Hamas had yet to sign off on its terms. “The ball is in the court of Hamas,” one said. Another official told CNN that Israel did not attend talks in Egypt on Sunday after Hamas failed to respond to the deal.

Harris on Sunday criticized Hamas, saying the group continued to pose a threat to Israel. “Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table,” she said. “And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire.”

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