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United States Senator Chris Murphy

Democrats begin to criticize Israel’s military operations in Gaza

New: Israel’s military operations in Gaza are coming under heavy criticism from Democrats in Congress, in what could be a sign of what’s to come from President Joe Biden and his national-security lieutenants.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a close Biden ally on foreign policy, took it a step further on Thursday when he released a statement calling on Israel’s military to dramatically shift its strategy as it pursues Hamas terrorists, citing “unacceptable and unsustainable” civilian casualties in Gaza.

Most Democrats have been giving the Israeli military the benefit of the doubt since the Oct. 7 attacks, noting that Hamas often operates from densely populated civilian areas and uses innocents as human shields. But Murphy said flatly that the bombing campaign is creating a humanitarian disaster and failing to achieve Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas.

In an interview late Thursday, Murphy warned that the Israeli government could be making the same mistakes the United States made in Iraq and Afghanistan, where terror groups only picked up steam over time.

“It is pushing Israel and the United States away from our allies as the world watches this catastrophic level of civilian harm,” Murphy told us. “There seems to be too much permissiveness in the Israeli decision-making structure for civilian casualties.”

Murphy is not calling for a ceasefire. He said Israel has “a right and a responsibility” to “decapitate” Hamas for its horrific terrorist attacks last month, noting that Hamas would never agree to a ceasefire anyway.

But he’s reflecting a shift among Democrats about Israel’s tactics in Gaza, suggesting the Biden administration should push the Israeli government to adopt a more deliberate and surgical approach to wiping out Hamas.

“We’ve all seen an increased level of urgency in the attention President Biden has given to the humanitarian cost of this war,” Murphy added. “My sense is this is a pretty serious ongoing discussion between the administration and Israel about the scope of their operations.”

Statements like these are sure to capture the attention of senior Biden administration officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Israel today.

Other Democrats are speaking out, too. A Senate group led by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) released a statement late Thursday calling for a short-term pause that allows humanitarian aid to reach the hardest-hit areas in Gaza. The senators said it’s “nearly impossible” to deliver this aid given the current scale of Israel’s operations.

“The failure to adequately protect non-combatant civilians risks dramatic escalation of the conflict in the region and imposes severe damage on prospects for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians,” the senators said.

— Andrew Desiderio

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