Five dozen reps. want ‘immediate action’ in Gaza
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Five dozen reps. want ‘immediate action’ in Gaza

Sixty members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked that the United States take "immediate action" to address the "humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip."

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the members of Congress state that the border crossings into Gaza must be opened to allow the importation of construction materials and fuel, and they urge Clinton to ask the Israeli government to allow critically ill patients to be transported out of Gaza to recieve medical care. The letter also requests that the State Department release emergency funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

The letter was initiated by Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), John Olver (D-Mass.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Among the signatories were two Jewish members of Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kent.) and Bob Filner (D-Calif.). Here’s the full letter:

Dear Secretary Clinton:

First, we would like to congratulate you on being sworn in as our nation’s 67th Secretary of State.  We are very hopeful that this new era in American foreign policy upon which we embark can advance the cause of peace in the Middle East and beyond.

As strong supporters of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, we are writing to express our deep concern for the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and to request immediate action by the United States to address this crisis.  With the ceasefire now in effect, it is critical that the United States play a leading role in alleviating the suffering of civilians in Gaza and we respectfully urge your assistance in this task.

As you know, the situation on the ground is dire.  The flow of humanitarian goods into the Gaza Strip is limited to food and medicine.  Yet there exists a real need to allow for the importation of construction materials and fuel, which require the opening of crossings into Gaza.  For example, only the Karni Crossing has the capacity for transporting large cargo, such as cement, but it remains closed. 

In addition, in order to rebuild civilian infrastructure in Gaza the international community is going to have to make significant monetary contributions.  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) estimates financial needs of nearly $350 million just to rebuild their own infrastructure and continue providing essential services to the Palestinians in Gaza. 

We also remain especially concerned about the desperate condition of medical services in Gaza.  Although Israel has begun to allow limited medical supplies into Gaza, the need far outweighs the availability while hospitals remain understaffed and ill-supplied.  One of the most crucial steps that needs to be taken is for Israel to allow critically ill patients to be transported out of Gaza and into Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, where they may receive necessary medical care.  We therefore urge you to express this concern directly to Israeli government officials.

In addition to the several thousand individuals who were physically injured during the recent military operations, we can expect to see a dramatic increase in the number of individuals suffering from psychological trauma.  In order to help the population to begin rebuilding, we will need to further ensure that funds are used to provide adequate mental health services in Gaza.

Failure to address this humanitarian emergency has the potential to produce a crisis of even more unspeakable proportions.  We therefore respectfully request that the State Department release emergency funds to UNRWA for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.  We believe the State Department can make funds available through accounts such as Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) and urge you to facilitate the transfer of funds as soon as possible.

We look forward to maintaining a productive and ongoing dialogue with the State Department and the Obama Administration regarding the United States response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  Toward that end we respectfully request that you or your staff share with us prior to Congress recessing on February 13, 2009, the actions taken to date and the strategy you will pursue to address the humanitarian crisis.

Finally, we know that addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole is a top priority of the Obama Administration and we applaud President Obama and you for your early and public commitment to meet this challenge.  We also believe that the naming of former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East is commendable.   We believe the security interests of both Israel and the United States will be greatly enhanced by the establishment of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that United States involvement is indispensable in achieving that goal.   We stand ready to work with you as the Administration furthers these efforts.

Full List of Signatories to the Letter:

DAVID PRICE

LOIS CAPPS 

JOHN OLVER                                                           

KEITH ELLISON

SAM FARR                                                                

MAURICE D. HINCHEY

BARBARA LEE                                                         

JIM MORAN

EARL BLUMENAUER                                              

LLOYD DOGGETT

JAMES P. MCGOVERN                                            

GWEN MOORE

JIM MCDERMOTT                                                   

RAÚL M. GRIJALVA

PETE STARK                                                             

MICHAEL E. CAPUANO

PETER WELCH                                                         

DENNIS J. KUCINICH

DONALD M. PAYNE                                    

LYNN C. WOOLSEY

JOHN D. DINGELL                                                   

MAXINE WATERS

DIANE E. WATSON                                                 

ANDRÉ CARSON

DONNA F. EDWARDS                                             

JOHN LEWIS

CAROLYN C. KILPATRICK                        

GLENN C. NYE

HENRY C. JOHNSON                                              

JOE SESTAK

BOB FILNER                                                             

STEPHEN F. LYNCH

JOHN F. TIERNEY                                                    

RUSH D. HOLT

BETTY MCCOLLUM                                    

GEORGE MILLER

NICK J. RAHALL                                                      

YVETTE D. CLARKE

WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT                                        

LORETTA SANCHEZ

ROSA L. DELAURO                                                  

MIKE THOMPSON

BRIAN BAIRD                                                           

PETER A. DEFAZIO

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY                                       

MARY JO KILROY

THOMAS PERRIELLO                                             

JOHN CONYERS JR.

NEIL ABERCROMBIE                                              

GERALD E. CONNOLLY

EARL POMEROY

ANNA G. ESHOO

JACKIE SPEIER                                                        

MICHAEL M. HONDA

JOHN A. YARMUTH                                    

BRUCE BRALEY

TAMMY BALDWIN                                                 

JAMES L. OBERSTAR

ERIC  J.J. MASSA                                                     

MICHAEL H. MICHAUD