Raskin, other House Democrats pressure Biden to do more to protect children in Gaza

The letter calls for "timely evacuation and protection of children and babies."

November 22, 2023, 1:50 PM

More congressional Democrats are pressuring President Joe Biden to get Israel to do more to protect children in Gaza as war continues to rage in the enclave.

The effort is being led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who has joined Jewish lawmakers and other members of Congress calling for a general cease-fire, which Biden has said he opposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC News on Nov. 6 that he opposes a general cease-fire "without the release of our hostages."

Raskin and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, along with 25 cosigners, sent a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urging the administration to "ensure the safety of infants and children living under terror and violence" following Hamas' surprise terror attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

PHOTO: Medics prepare premature babies for transport to Egypt after they were evacuated from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to a hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Nov. 20, 2023.
Medics prepare premature babies for transport to Egypt after they were evacuated from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to a hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Nov. 20, 2023.
Fatima Shbair/AP

More than 1,200 people were killed in Israel during the initial terror attack, according to Israeli officials. More than 14,000 people have been killed in retaliatory operations in Gaza since, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The letter was sent before the Israeli government approved a deal Tuesday night that would allow for the release of at least 50 women and children held hostage during a four-day pause in hostilities. As a part of this deal, 150 Palestinian prisoners will also be released by Israel.

The signers thank Biden for pressing Israel to allow more aid into the Gaza Strip but call for more.

"While we welcome these developments, we believe the deepening humanitarian disaster risks becoming a catastrophe that undermines the United States' credibility in the region," they wrote. "We urge an immediate cessation of hostilities against targets with a civilian presence to facilitate the timely evacuation and protection of children and babies."

They urge protections for children in Israel and the West Bank as well.

Currently, children -- and women -- in Gaza are bearing the brunt of the Israel-Hamas war, according to United Nations agencies and experts. Earlier this month, several U.N. agencies said 67% of all deaths in Gaza were made up of women and children -- while thousands more have been injured.

Some progress is being made to ensure the safety of the youngest children caught in the conflict. Earlier this week, more than two dozen premature, low-birthweight babies were evacuated from Gaza into neighboring Egypt to receive emergency medical care.

"If our world can agree on nothing else, surely we can agree that children must be protected from the horrific consequences of terrorism and war; that the endangerment of children, and grave violations of their rights and physical safety, by terrorist attacks and in armed conflict must end immediately; and that it is long past time to stop this cycle of violence and trauma that has ruined the lives of far too many children," the letter said.

The letter mentioned orphaned 3-year-old Abigail Edan, an Israeli-American who was kidnapped by Hamas militants on Oct. 7. The U.S. expects that she would be among the hostages released, according to a U.S. official familiar with negotiations.

PHOTO: Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated at al Aqsa Hospital on Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Nov. 21, 2023.
Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated at al Aqsa Hospital on Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Nov. 21, 2023.
Marwan Saleh/AP

On Monday, more than a dozen Democratic senators called on Biden to do more to get Israel to protect innocent civilians in Gaza and to press for more humanitarian aid to the region.

In the letter, the House Democrats requested a daily accounting of the condition of Palestinian and Israeli children and babies killed, wounded, and traumatized in the conflict to help in making sure appropriate humanitarian aid would be delivered.

"Such accountability should guide and help determine U.S. policies and strategies to prioritize the protection, care, and services for children who daily confront unspeakable dangers and loss in this conflict," the letter said.

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