South Africa

US VP Kamala Harris calls for ‘immediate’ ceasefire in Gaza

Kamala Harris

As Israel continues to bomb Gaza, US vice-president Kamala Harris has rebuked Israel and called for a proposed six-week ceasefire in the war to be accepted as the death toll and suffering in the enclave rises.

Harris made the call while delivering a speech to mark the 59th anniversary of violent suppression of civil rights protesters by police in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.

In a surprise move, she criticised Israel on Sunday over insufficient desperately needed aid into Gaza to ease the plight of the Palestinian people.

Watch US vice-president Kamala Harris speaking about an immediate ceasfire in Gaza

Gaza suffering

“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks which is what is currently on the table.

“This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in,” Harris said.

In some of the strongest criticism of Israel yet by US President Joe Biden’s administration, Harris said Israel must do more to allow the delivery of aid, including opening new border crossings and committing not to impose “unnecessary restrictions,” Al Jazeera reported.

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act. The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.”

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Humanitarian crisis

A dire humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the war-torn territory, with food shortages greatest in the north of Gaza.

Last week, a Gaza emergency doctor said Israeli forces shot dead at least 50 people who rushed towards trucks loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza City residents.

The Israeli army said it was “checking” the reports on the incident, while the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it was “familiar with the reports.”

War

Israel’s relentless military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed more than 30 000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

The UN estimates that 2.2 million people − the vast majority of Gaza’s population − are threatened with famine, particularly in the north where destruction, fighting and looting make the delivery of food almost impossible.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, just over
2 300 aid trucks have entered the Gaza Strip in February, down by around 50% compared to January.

ALSO READ: Medic says 50 killed as Israel fires on Gazans rushing to aid trucks