Pelosi joins call for Biden to stop transfer of US weapons to Israel

(In paragraph two, corrects to say that Gaza suffers widespread hunger, not famine; adds context on United Nations warnings of imminent famine in Gaza in paragraph 11)

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Representative Nancy Pelosi, former House speaker and a key ally of Joe Biden, signed a letter on Friday from dozens of congressional Democrats to the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging a halt to weapons transfers to Israel.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which followed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, has come under increasing international criticism as the Gaza health ministry has reported more than 33,000 people have died in the war and the narrow coastal enclave suffers widespread hunger.

Support from Pelosi, a veteran member of Biden’s Democratic Party, for stopping the transfer of weapons to Israel showed that the view is increasingly becoming mainstream in the party.

KEY QUOTE

Friday’s letter called on the Biden administration to conduct its own probe into an Israeli airstrike that killed seven staff of the aid group World Central Kitchen on Monday.

“In light of the recent strike against aid workers and the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, we believe it is unjustifiable to approve these weapons transfers,” the letter said. It was signed by Pelosi and 36 other Democrats including Representatives Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

CONTEXT

The Israeli military said on Friday it dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders after an inquiry into the aid workers’ deaths found serious errors and breaches of procedure. Biden held a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in which he said Israel needed to do more to protect civilians or the U.S. would change its policy.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza has displaced nearly all its 2.3 million population and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies.

The United Nations has warned of looming famine in Gaza. Famine is assessed by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an initiative of U.N. agencies, regional bodies and aid groups. On March 18, the IPC wrote in a report that famine is imminent and likely to occur by May in northern Gaza and could spread across the enclave by July.

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