As hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled their homes in response to Israel’s warnings of a massive ground invasion, the United Nations is warning of an escalating humanitarian crisis.
Many are struggling to find shelter and food; Gaza has no electricity and is running out of clean drinking water. “It has become a matter of life and death,” said Phillippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency, the agency that provides support and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, in a statement Saturday. “It is a must: Fuel needs to be delivered now into Gaza to make water available for two million people.”
On Saturday, Francesca Albanese, a UN expert on Palestinian human rights, warned, “In the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.”
Nearly half of Gaza’s population has been displaced over the week following a massive attack on Israel by Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, last Saturday. The sequestered region has not received humanitarian aid since a complete blockade began on Friday. More than 1,300 Israelis and 1,900 Palestinians are estimated to have died in a war that erupted after the surprise attack a week ago. With the ground invasion set to begin soon, residents are fleeing but have few places to go.
Meanwhile, a number of American lawmakers and other officials have attempted to demonstrate their support for Israel. Last week, President Joe Biden said, “So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is on a tour of the Middle East, traveling to at least seven countries, in an attempt to generate support for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is leading a bipartisan trip to Israel to meet with the nation’s leaders and express support for the country. “To have a bipartisan delegation, led by the majority leader saying strongly and unequivocally we’re with Israel is going to make a big difference to Israelis,” Schumer told the AP. He’ll be joined by Republican senators Bill Cassidy (La.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) and Democratic senators Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and Mark Kelly (Ariz.).
In the House, tensions reportedly erupted between Democratic lawmakers over support for Israel. And today, two far-right Republican lawmakers—Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) and Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.)—announced plans on conservative outlet Breitbart to introduce legislation preventing Palestinian refugees from resettling in the United States. The “Guaranteeing Aggressors Zero Admission Act,” or the GAZA Act, would make it impossible for the Biden administration to issue visas to those fleeing the violence with Palestinian Authority passports.
“We can’t let President Biden abuse our parole and visa rules to bring unvetted Palestinians into American communities the way he did with thousands of unvetted Afghans,” Tiffany wrote Saturday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
We can’t let President Biden abuse our parole and visa rules to bring unvetted Palestinians into American communities the way he did with thousands of unvetted Afghans.
I introduced the GAZA Act to protect America’s national security.https://t.co/wPCYFlCNps
— Rep. Tom Tiffany (@RepTiffany) October 14, 2023
Biden helped resettle thousands of Afghan refugees; Tiffany and Ogles are reportedly introducing the legislation to prevent similar resettlement in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
But the lawmakers have a hurdle to contend with before their legislation can get anywhere: After former House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted earlier this month, House Republicans have been unable to agree on a new speaker. As a result, it cannot conduct any legislative work.