Sen. Jeff Merkley united with those urging a cease-fire in Gaza as the war between Israel and Hamas moves well into its second month.
“I am calling for a cease-fire — a cessation of hostilities by both sides,” Mr. Merkley, Oregon Democrat, posted Monday on X. “To endure, the cease-fire and the following negotiations must accomplish other essential objectives, including the release of all hostages and a massive influx of humanitarian aid.”
This comes after Illinois’ Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, set the pace this month with his call for a break in the fighting. Then he joined with 12 other Democrats in the chamber to push for a “short-term cessation of hostilities that pose high-risk to civilians, aid workers or humanitarian aid delivery in Gaza.”
Some House Democrats have been calling for a cease-fire since the early days of war.
Mr. Merkley condemned the fighting in his Monday statement, saying that “the way that Israel has conducted that campaign matters and has been deeply disturbing for me and millions of others.”
Much like Mr. Durbin’s statement, he reiterated that he previously called for a humanitarian pause to “facilitate negotiations for the release of hostages.” The Oregonian said the cease-fire would also be used to move Palestinians in Gaza to safe zones, let foreign citizens leave and allow for the distribution of food, water, medicine and fuel.
It’s estimated that over 200 people were taken hostage by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attack, and the World Food Program warns that the civilians in Gaza are nearing starvation.
Mr. Merkley said Israel should “end its bombing and shelling and also address the immediate humanitarian challenge” in Gaza. He added that Israel should let Palestinians return to their homes in Gaza “to start on the path to a more just future.”
“Most importantly, the Israeli people and the Palestinian people must find leaders determined to partner with each other and the world to replace the cycle of hate and violence with both a long-term vision for security, peace and prosperity featuring two states for two peoples, and immediate, concrete steps toward that goal,” he said.
President Biden has said a “pause” might be needed to “get the prisoners out.”
Hamas‘ attack killed 1,200 Israelis, and since then a growing number of Palestinians have died, with reports estimating more than 12,000.