Pelosi joins US Democrats call for Biden to halt arms transfer to Israel

Former House speaker among lawmakers putting pressure on White House in letter citing Gaza humanitarian crisis.

More than 30 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives have called for a full halt to the transfer of weapons to Israel, in a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“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,” read the letter signed on Friday by the lawmakers, including former House speaker and Biden ally Nancy Pelosi.

Pressure has been mounting on the White House and Western governments to stop arming Israel with no let-up in the Israeli military’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, where the death toll since October has crossed 33,000. There appear to be dim prospects of a ceasefire and no progress in getting more humanitarian aid into the enclave where famine has set in, despite Israel pledging to reopen a crossing to northern Gaza.

This week Israel said it will reopen the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing with northern Gaza for aid, hours after a warning from Biden for it to take steps to protect civilians and humanitarian workers following the Israeli military’s strikes on US-based food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK).

“While we appreciate your administration’s recent efforts to increase the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, these efforts will not be sufficient to meet the extraordinary need on the ground,” the letter read.

The legislators also called on the Biden administration to conduct its own investigation into the Israeli attack that killed seven WCK members in central Gaza.

On Friday, the Israeli military dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders after an inquiry into the aid workers’ deaths found serious errors and breaches of procedure.

“Over 200 aid workers have been killed since the start of the war. These attacks and deaths are having a chilling effect with the World Central Kitchen and other humanitarian groups now suspending their operations in Gaza,” the letter noted.

Hassan Barari, a professor at Qatar University’s Department of International Affairs, said the letter represents a “change in the American scene”, adding that “the whole Democratic party is moving to adopt this position, so it has become a mainstream position”.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a resolution calling for Israel to be held accountable for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza, and demanding a halt to all arms sales to the country.

While countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain and Belgium have suspended arms sales to Israel, several other Western nations continue to supply lethal weapons despite mounting criticism over the growing civilian casualties.

The United States has supplied the bulk of Israel’s defence requirements, including 2000-pound bunker-buster bombs. This year, the US Congress also approved an additional $14bn military aid package to Israel.

Barari told Al Jazeera that “I think it is genuine pressure, given what Israel has been doing, but at the same time, we have to remember that the international community has been complicit with all these Israeli massacres and genocide”.

In the United Kingdom, opposition parties and some parliamentarians from the governing Conservative Party, as well as hundreds of lawyers and judges have demanded that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stop selling weapons to Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies