Pro-Palestinian protesters descend on Senate interrupt Blinken testimony and demand cease fire now During Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before a Senate committee on the administration’s emergency funding request for Israel and Ukraine, protesters repeatedly interrupted him. They called for a “cease-fire now” and accused the U.S. of supporting a “massacre” in Gaza, which has been under bombardment from Israel since Hamas launched a surprise attack on the nation in early October.
Victims of the assault were executed, bound and burned alive, and other bodies were found decapitated. Approximately 1,400 Israelis were killed, and more than 200 people were kidnapped. In response to the attack, Israel carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 8,525 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
An unidentified protester shouted, “Save the children of Gaza. Cease-fire now. Where is your pride in America.”
Another protester shouted as security escorted him out of the room: “Put an end to the ruthless violence.”
The assembly of more than a dozen demonstrators, seemingly affiliated with the activist organization CODEPINK, raised their hands high, displaying various signs, one of which read, “Demolish all the barriers.”
Their hands were stained with red paint. The protesters also united in a chant, proclaiming, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the barriers must crumble.”
Afterward, Secretary of State Blinken concluded his testimony. Committee Chair Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, temporarily halted the hearing to allow Capitol Police to clear the room, and then Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin commenced his opening statement.
The disruptions during a Senate Appropriations Committee session highlighted the hurdles facing the Biden administration as it seeks congressional approval for a groundbreaking $106 billion aid package, aimed at providing support to Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. The funds would also contribute to restocking U.S. weapon supplies and modernizing equipment.
Blinken informed the committee that the United States had emphasized to Israel the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law and taking all possible steps to prevent civilian casualties.
Senators are pushing for support to aid the Gaza Strip.
Biden has requested over $61.4 billion for Ukraine, with a significant portion allocated to replace equipment provided to Ukraine for defense against Russia. Additionally, he is seeking $14.3 billion in aid for Israel. The funding request also includes allocations for U.S. border security, efforts to counter China, and humanitarian assistance, including support for the Gaza Strip. During a Senate hearing, Secretary of State Blinken was questioned about the delivery of humanitarian aid and whether it was being diverted by Hamas, the governing group in Gaza. Blinken stated that the U.S. has not received reports from the United Nations or Israel regarding diversions and is closely monitoring the situation.
He mentioned that over 50 trucks loaded with relief supplies have entered the Gaza Strip, and the United States aims to increase this number to 100 trucks by the end of the current week. However, it’s important to note that aid organizations used to dispatch 500-800 trucks daily in the past, as stated by Blinken during his testimony.
Blinken acknowledged, “Can I guarantee with absolute certainty that 100% of the aid will reach its intended recipients? No, there may be some instances of spillage.” He emphasized that the vast majority of the assistance is reaching those in need, and the demand for more aid remains pressing.
Blinken also pointed out that the United States has provided $1.6 billion in assistance to the Palestinian people throughout the administration, and they are actively encouraging their partners and allies to increase their support as well.
The U.S. does not support a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The U.S. has rejected the idea of a cease-fire but has expressed willingness to support temporary humanitarian “pauses” to allow aid delivery and the safe evacuation of hostages and civilians from certain areas.
Israel has reported that approximately 240 individuals are being held captive by Hamas, with the U.S. confirming that at least 10 Americans are among those held.
Secretary of State Blinken provided detailed accounts of civilian casualties, including families and children, in Israel resulting from the October 7th attack. He also reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s military defense and stated that no nation could endure such a situation.
The Biden administration advocates for supporting Ukraine.
In the House of Representatives, Republicans are pursuing legislation that separates the aid provided to Israel from the rest of President Biden’s funding request. This approach differs from the strategy in the Senate and contradicts the Biden administration’s push for additional military assistance to Ukraine, which is currently facing shortages.
During a Senate hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that if the United States doesn’t continue to support Ukraine, there’s a potential risk of Russia taking aggressive actions against a NATO member state, which could lead to the involvement of American military forces in the conflict. “It is far more prudent to sustain our efforts now and ensure a successful outcome rather than paying a much higher price in the future,” Blinken emphasized.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in his testimony, highlighted that Ukraine has managed to recapture 50% of the territory initially occupied by Russia and has made significant strides in its efforts.
The GOP seeks clarification regarding Iran.
GOP Senators were particularly assertive in their inquiries regarding Iran and the administration’s handling of drone and rocket attacks targeting U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
Last week, the United States carried out strikes on two facilities associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated groups in Syria.
Secretary of Defense Austin stated that the U.S. is committed to taking the necessary measures to safeguard American troops and interests. He underlined that the Pentagon has deployed assets to the region as a deterrent.
“The President’s stance, and mine as well, is clear… if these actions do not cease, we will take action,” Austin emphasized. “We retain the right to respond, possess the capability to do so, and will choose the time and place of our response.”