US VP Harris calls out Israel over 'catastrophe' in Gaza

AFP

US Vice President Kamala Harris bluntly called out Israel on Sunday for not doing enough to ease a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza as the Biden administration faces increasing pressure to rein in its close ally while it wages war with Hamas.

Harris, speaking in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where state troopers beat US civil rights marchers nearly six decades ago, called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urged Hamas to accept a deal to release hostages in return for a six-week cessation of hostilities.

But she directed the bulk of her comments at Israel in what appeared to be the sharpest rebuke yet by a senior leader in the US government over the conditions in the coastal enclave.

"People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act," Harris said at an event to commemorate the 59th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Alabama. "The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses."

Her comments reflected intense frustration, if not desperation, within the US government about the war, which has hurt President Joe Biden with left-leaning voters as he seeks re-election this year.

Harris said Israel must open new border crossings, not impose "unnecessary restrictions" on aid delivery, protect humanitarian personnel and convoys from becoming targets, and work to restore basic services and promote order so that "more food, water and fuel can reach those in need".

The United States carried out its first air drop of aid in Gaza on Saturday and Harris is scheduled to meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantzon Monday at the White House, where she is expected to deliver a similarly direct message.

Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, according to an Israeli newspaper.

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

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