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Chair Cardin on Developments in Israel, the Administration’s NSM-20 Report

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement on Rafah operations, the NSM-20 report, and humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

“The U.S. has shown a clear commitment to ensuring Israel has what it needs to defend itself against ongoing threats posed by Hamas, Iran, and terrorist networks in the region. America’s action has always been guided by our national security interests of pursuing two states for two peoples, where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace, security, dignity, and mutual recognition. Today’s vote in the UN General Assembly only threatens this path to a durable peace.

“It is critical for the international community to remain focused on who perpetrated the Oct 7th massacre – Hamas. Rather than negotiating in good faith, Hamas is playing games with a reasonable agreement to release innocent hostages and bring about an extended ceasefire, further proof that there is no peaceful future for Israelis or Palestinians if Hamas is able to operate in Gaza.

“Israel has a right to target Hamas leadership in Gaza, but there is a right way to pursue that goal. Going into Rafah without a credible plan to deal with the humanitarian situation is not the right way.

“Any operation must take all measures to protect civilian lives. There must be safe passage for innocent civilians currently displaced inside Rafah. They need to have the necessary food, water, shelter, medical care, and all other humanitarian provisions. It is in the interest of Israel and the US that there be sustained, effective humanitarian assistance available to those at risk in Gaza, and it needs to be provided without delay or interruption.

“Pressuring Hamas should not be limited to military means. Arab countries have a leadership role to play in offering Palestinians positive alternatives and steering public opinion away from Hamas.

“While the most recent report regarding Israel under the NSM-20 has raised concerns, I agree with its assessment that Israel has not violated International Humanitarian Law and that military assistance to support Israel’s security remains in the U.S. interest and should continue. In this regard, I differ with President Biden’s recent decision.”