Influential Democrat calls Israel's relentless strikes on Gaza 'unacceptable and unsustainable'

  • Two Democrats are urging Israel to reconsider its approach to fighting Hamas.

  • Sens. Chris Murphy and Dick Durbin's comments come after an Israeli airstrike hit a Gaza refugee camp.

  • Durbin explicitly called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

After a series of withering Israeli airstrikes in Gaza this week, at least two Senate Democrats are urging Israel to change its approach to fighting Hamas — signaling the possible start of an unprecedented shift in the unwavering US support on which Israel has long relied.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued a strong statement on Thursday denouncing the current level of Palestinian civilian deaths, calling the number "unacceptable and unsustainable."

"It's time for Israel's friends to recognize that the current operational approach is causing an unacceptable level of civilian harm and does not appear likely to achieve the goal of permanently ending the threat from Hamas," Murphy wrote.

The lawmaker's statement comes after Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, explicitly called for a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages on Thursday, doubling down on the politically-charged term that many of his fellow politicians, including President Joe Biden, have thus far avoided using.

The lawmakers' comments appear to be prompted in part by a Tuesday airstrike launched by Israel's military that devastated a refugee camp in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed credit for the strike on the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. The IDF said the strike was targeting Hamas operatives and infrastructure, including tunnels underneath civilian buildings.

Gaza's Hamas-run government said at least 195 Palestinians were killed in the attack.

More than 8,000 Palestinians, including 3,648 children, have been killed since October 7, Gaza's health ministry said.

Israel launched a massive counterterrorism campaign last month after Hamas militants massacred hundreds of civilians near the Israel-Gaza border in a wave of surprise attacks on October 7, taking Israeli hostages back into Gaza as well. Israel said 1,400 people were killed in the attacks and more than 100 people initially taken hostage.

In his Thursday statement, Murphy reaffirmed Israel's "right and obligation" to defend itself from terror attacks.

"But the way in which the current campaign is being waged — most recently evidenced by the terribly high human cost of the strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp — suggests that they have not struck the right balance between military necessity and proportionality," he wrote.

Murphy also compared Israel's current response to America's own campaigns against terrorism, which he said resulted in a "disproportionately large" number of civilian casualties, which come with a "moral but also a strategic cost, as terrorist groups feed off of the grievances caused by civilian harm."

The lawmaker ended by urging Israel to "immediately reconsider its approach" and shift to a more targeted campaign that prioritized the safety of civilians.

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