WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 50 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter urging President Obama to press Israel and Egypt to lift the closure on the Gaza Strip.
The letter sent Jan. 21, initiated by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), said "the unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts."
It says the blockade imposed by the countries "has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering." The signatories also "sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks," and recognize that Israel’s restrictions arise out of a "legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups."
Among the 54 Democrats to sign were two Jewish congressmen, Bob Filner of California and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.
In a response reported by Haaretz, the Israeli Embassy in Washington said that "As long as Hamas continues to attack Israel with missiles and other means, Israel will not open the border crossings. With this, Israel is doing everything possible to ensure that humanitarian aid enters Gaza in a controlled manner so that it is ensured that the population receives what it needs, including medical care in Israel."