Van Hollen calls on Biden to ‘speak out more clearly’ on civilian casualties in Gaza

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Sunday called on President Biden to speak out more clearly about civilian casualties in Gaza, when asked whether Biden’s pro-Israel positioning hurts his standing with Democrats.

“I don’t know if it’s hurting the president with fellow Democrats. I do think it’s important that the president speak out more clearly on this issue,” Van Hollen said in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

“Let me say this, in the aftermath of the horrific Hamas attacks of October 7, you have, I think, virtually every senator supporting Israel’s objective of going after Hamas and neutralizing them from a military perspective. No more October 7th’s,” he said. “But we also need to do — as [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] said, how Israel conducts this operation is important.”

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack on Israel’s southern border, brutally killing 1,200 Israelis and taking about 240 hostages, most of whom are presumed to be held in Gaza. It was the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust.

Israel responded with a barrage of airstrikes and a ground invasion with the stated goal of destroying Hamas and bringing the hostages home. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza estimates more than 11,000 Palestinians have died since the start of the war, prompting widespread demonstrations — especially among many Democrats — for a cease-fire.

Democrats have had to tread lightly as the administration navigates the relationship with its closest ally in the region, while also managing its own public image back home, ahead of a 2024 presidential race.

Van Hollen stressed it’s important for there to be red lines on issues of aid — and that no aid that the United States gives its allies ought to be unconditional, as has been the policy of the White House.

“Many of us were concerned just a few weeks ago, when one of the White House National Security [spokespeople] was asked if the United States has any red lines. And the answer was no, which means anything goes,” Van Hollen said. “And that cannot be consistent with American interests and American values. So that’s why we’re asking these questions.”

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