Washington — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday urged the Biden administration to “push harder” to end the ongoing, which escalated over the weekend with Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City.
“The death toll increases and the violence has got to stop. And I think we need to do everything possible to bring about a cease fire,” Schiff said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease fire, end these hostilities, and get back to a process of trying to resolve this long-standing conflict.”
Diplomatic efforts are underway to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and the Biden administration last week sent an envoy, Deputy Assistant Secretary State Hady Amr, to the region to urge de-escalation. On Saturday, the White House said President Biden spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stress the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel and encourage an end to the violence.
Schiff said there has to be “sustained diplomatic engagement” from the U.S. with Palestinian and Israeli partners, as well as with Egypt and other countries to bring an end to the fighting.
“I think that international effort, if sustained, will bring about that result. But we’re going to have to speak out clearly about this,” he said.
Hostilities between Israel and Hamas have reached their most deadly in years, with this weekend bringing the deadliest attacks since clashes began in east Jerusalem earlier this month.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported more than 180 Palestinians have been killed, including 52 children, and another 1,200 wounded, in the clashes. Eight Israelis have been killed, including two children. Hamas and other militant groups have fired roughly 2,900 rockets into Israel, and the Israeli military said its air defenses intercepted 1,150 of those rockets.
Israeli airstrikes on Saturday targeted several office and residential buildings in Gaza City, including one tower that housed offices for the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, as well as apartments. The Israeli military said the building contained Hamas military assets, and journalists received warnings ahead of time, allowing them to evacuate. Israeli airstrikes in Gaza early Sunday killed at least 42 people and flattened three buildings.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Saturday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Saturday with Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt and “offered his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world.”
Schiff, a Democrat from California, stressed ending the violence has to be the priority, and said while Israel has the right to protect itself and its people, the Palestinians “have a right to live in peace and freedom, to a state of their own, living side by side in peace with Israel.”
“We can’t have the targeting of buildings with press organizations. We can’t continue to see this loss of civilian life. It’s got to come to an end,” he said. “While I fully defend Israel’s right to defend itself, it needs to do what it needs to do to protect its people, I don’t want that to be interpreted as support for Israeli settlement policy or the eviction of Palestinians from their homes.”
Schiff called the ongoing clashes a “terrible tragedy.”
“The loss of life is just deplorable,” he said. “Every rocket that Hamas sends into Israel is a deliberate effort to kill civilians. And I think we need to understand that these rockets are indiscriminate and by definition designed to kill civilians.”