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Protesters Disrupt Senate And Demand Ceasefire As Blinken Presses For Israel Aid



Anti-war CODEPINK activists disrupted a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, interrupting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony calling for increased aid to Israel.
Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified before the Senate committee to advocate for the increased military aid to both Ukraine and Israel included in President Joe Biden’s $105 billion funding request, along with humanitarian assistance and other national security provisions.
The budget request includes $14 billion for Israel, which has been bombarding the besieged Gaza Strip since Hamas militants broke out and launched deadly attacks on several Israeli villages on Oct. 7.
In the Republican-led House, meanwhile, new Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has proposed separating aid for Israel from the rest of the request — particularly the Ukraine aid opposed by many conservatives — and offsetting that $14.3 billion expenditure with cuts to the IRS budget. But his plan is said to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
In the Senate hearing Tuesday, protesters raised their hands, which were covered in red paint. One by one, the protesters interrupted Blinken’s testimony with shouts of ceasefire now! and save the children of Gaza! and were escorted out by police.
“I do recognize that people feel very passionately, but I ask that we have order in their hearing room and respect our speakers,” Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. “We will move forward with the hearing and allow the people here and the American people to hear from their witnesses.”
But the protesters continued their disruptions, citing the Geneva Conventions governing the laws of war, and demanding a ceasefire.
Addressing the protesters, Blinken said all of us are committed to the protection of civilian life.
All of us know the suffering that is taking place as we speak. All of us are determined to see it end,” he said. “But all of us know the imperative of standing up with our allies and partners when their security, when their democracies are threatened. Thats what happening now. We stand resolutely with them even as we stand resolutely for the protection of innocent civilians.”
According to Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people were killed in Israel, including civilians and soldiers. In the ensuing siege and bombardment, all food, water and fuel supplies were cut off from Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007.
Israeli airstrikes continued pummeling Gaza as the war entered its 25th day, and ground troops advanced in northern Gaza, engaging Hamas militants in gun battles and striking hundreds of targets including Hamas compounds, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Within Gaza, more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed, nearly half of whom are children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which last week released a list including the names, ages and identification numbers of those confirmed dead at hospitals. Many more remain missing under the rubble.
In the occupied West Bank, meanwhile, at least 115 Palestinians have been reported killed and more than 1,600 wounded in retaliatory violence and raids since Oct. 7.
The U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, said Monday that 64 U.N. workers in Gaza have been killed since Oct. 7.
This is the highest number of U.N. aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said.
Around half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been internally displaced, with many in the north evacuating south at Israel’s request, despite continued airstrikes in southern Gaza. Many have been unable to evacuate. Some 672,000 people are sheltering at U.N. facilities across the territory, as the UNRWA warns public services are on the verge of total collapse.
The agency said the trucks of humanitarian aid that have been allowed in so far have not been nearly enough for the millions of people in need of clean water, food, medical supplies and fuel.
Speaking to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Lazzarini said the lack of supplies is fueling a breakdown in civil order.
Panic pushed thousands of desperate people to head to the UNRWA warehouse and distribution centers where we store the food and other supplies we started receiving via Egypt last week, Lazzarini said, referring to crowds of people who broke into the warehouses over the weekend. Hunger and despair are turning into anger against the international community, and in Gaza, the international community is better known as UNRWA.
TMX contributed to this article.