WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three senators urged President Obama to ensure that Israel removes Hamas’ military threat before a cease-fire is in place.
“The threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats,” Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R- S. C.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter Wednesday. “Any effort to broker a cease-fire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks.”
While expressing sympathy for the death of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians, the senators wrote that Hamas’ “primary goal is to destroy Israel. We must do everything possible to ensure they do not succeed.”
Cardin, along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), also wrote to Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, on Wednesday to express “our strong objections” to his calling Israel’s operations in Gaza an “atrocious action.”
“We respectfully request that your future comments recognize the fact that the ‘atrocious action’ is the deliberate terrorist attack on civilians – not the measured response of a nation-state trying to defend its citizens,” the Cardin and Ayotte wrote.
They said Ban’s pronouncement “lends a degree of perceived legitimacy that terrorist organizations do not deserve” and also “undercuts the legitimate right of the nation-states to defend their citizens.”
In a third letter concerning the war between Israel and Hamas, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) wrote to Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, to condemn Wednesday’s decision by the U.N. Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry focusing mostly on Israel’s actions in Gaza without addressing allegations that Hamas hides its weapons and fighters among civilians.
“Hamas’ continued use of civilians as human shields is a direct violation of international law,” the Congress members wrote in a two-page letter that also condemned Hamas’ use of schools, hospitals and mosques “as covers for their rocket launchers and weapons caches.”
Separately, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a physician, called on Israel not to target medical facilities.
“I am distressed by reports that Israel has attacked hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel in its on-going military offensive in the Gaza Strip,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“Palestinian health and emergency workers are unable to reach the dead and wounded in many parts of Gaza due to the danger of being attacked themselves,” McDermott said. “I call on America’s long-time friend and ally Israel to abide by international humanitarian law and cease all attacks against health facilities and workers.”