Gaza: Why Netanyahu a "major obstacle" to peace per US senator Chuck Schumer

The Democratic Senate majority leader called for new elections in Israel, saying Israel's PM Netanyahu has "lost his way"

Democratic US senator Chuck Schumer, who called Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu an "obstacle" to peace (photo: DW)
Democratic US senator Chuck Schumer, who called Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu an "obstacle" to peace (photo: DW)


Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer gave a 40-minute speech on the Senate floor, during which he strongly criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for "tolerating the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows."

Meanwhile, an aid vessel carrying 200 tons of much-needed food aid is due to arrive in Gaza on Thursday, 14 March.

In Washington, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on three Israeli settlers and two Israeli settler outposts in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile in the Red Sea, a new Houthi attack on the Gulf of Aden did not affect any vessels, according to the US Central Command.

Here's a roundup of the latest in the Israel-Hamas war and its impact on the region for Thursday, March 14:

US Senate leader says Netanyahu 'major obstacle to peace'

US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has said he believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "lost his way" and is a "major obstacle to peace" in the Middle East.

Schumer, the Senate's first Jewish majority leader and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the US, delivered a withering criticism of Netanyahu in a 40-minute speech on Thursday morning.

The Democrat politician said the Israeli premier had entered a coalition with far-right extremists and "as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows."

"We should not let the complexities of this conflict stop us from stating the plain truth: Palestinian citizens do not deserve to suffer for the sins of Hamas, and Israel has a moral obligation to do better. The United States has an obligation to do better."

Schumer said Washington should provide robust humanitarian aid to Gaza and pressure the Israeli government to allow more of it to enter the coastal territory.

To achieve a two-state solution, Schumer said, "things must change."

Schumer said there were "four major obstacles" to peace, listing them as Hamas and its supporters, radical right-wing Israelis in government and society, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu himself.

"Until they are removed from the equation, there will never be peace in Israel and Gaza, and the West Bank," Schumer added.

Later Thursday, the US State Department said that Schumer's comments were not those of the administration of President Joe Biden, emphasizing that the US Congress is an independent branch of government.

However, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller added that "there are a number of things we wanted to see Israel do differently."

EU humanitarian chief calls for Israel to open land crossings into Gaza

EU humanitarian chief Janez Lenarcic has urged Israel to increase land access to the Gaza Strip for aid deliveries.

He said airdrops and a maritime corridor will not be enough to supply the Palestinian enclave with assistance.

"There is a risk of famine," Lenarcic said. "We already have a very strong and credible indication that there are pockets of famine already in the Gaza Strip."

"What is needed is very clear: a surge in humanitarian aid into Gaza and its distribution throughout Gaza," he said. "There is no meaningful substitute for land access... we call on Israel to open additional land crossings."

The United Nations has estimated that over half a million people in the territory are on the brink of starvation.

US imposes sanctions on West Bank settlements

The US Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on three Israeli settlers and two Israeli settler outposts in the occupied West Bank.

The outposts are believed to have been used by "extremist" Israeli settlers as a base for attacks against Palestinian civilians, US news website Axios reported earlier Thursday.

The sanctions would freeze any assets the three settlers and two outposts might have in the United States. They would also ban them from obtaining a US visa and block them from using the US financial system.

Israeli fire kills 6 Palestinian aid seekers, says Gaza Health Ministry

Health Ministry officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip told Reuters news agency that Israeli forces opened fire late on Wednesday, 13 March, on Palestinians rushing to get aid supplies in Gaza City, killing six.

Palestinians were crowding at the Kuwait roundabout in Gaza City when the incident occurred, Reuters reported, citing residents and officials at the Hamas-led Health Ministry.

Some 83 more people were wounded, Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

The Kuwait Roundabout in Gaza City is where people usually gather to wait for aid trucks.

Al Jazeera cited its journalist in Rafah, Hani Mahmoud, as saying that seeking aid in Gaza has become “really dangerous” in the enclave, adding that “the Kuwaiti Roundabout is now known as a death trap.”

On February 29, Palestinian health authorities accused Israeli forces of shooting and killing over 100 Palestinians waiting for aid near Gaza City. Israel blamed the deaths on the crowds surrounding aid trucks, suggesting the victims had been trampled or run over.

Aid ship inches closer to Gaza

A vessel carrying 200 tonnes of badly needed food aid is slowly sailing toward the Gaza Strip, devastated by over five months of war that has left many of the population of 2.3 million on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

The Spanish Open Arms aid vessel left from Cyprus on Tuesday, in cooperation with the World Central Kitchen aid group. The current voyage is the first of several planned as part of a maritime aid corridor to the Gaza Strip.

Specialist website Marine Traffic showed the vessel moving slowly south off the coast of Israel on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said a second aid ship "with bigger capacity" was being prepared.

Kombos led a virtual meeting on the maritime corridor with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior ministers and officials from the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the European Union and the United Nations.

"The ministers agreed that there is no meaningful substitute to land routes via Egypt and Jordan and entry points from Israel into Gaza for aid delivery at scale," the meeting parties said in a joint statement.

They also called on Israel to open the port of Ashdod, which lies north of Gaza, for aid deliveries.

Since the beginning of the war on October 7, 303,930 tonnes of aid have been delivered to Gaza, according to COGAT, the Israeli military body that handles Palestinian civilian affairs.

US to impose new West Bank settlement sanctions: reports

The United States is preparing to impose new sanctions on two illegal settler outposts in the occupied West Bank, and the sanctions are expected to come in as soon as Thursday, US news site Axios reported, citing three US officials.

The outposts are believed to have been used by "extremist" Israeli settlers as a base for attacks against Palestinian civilians, Axios said.

Such measures would represent the first time the US imposes sanctions against entire outposts rather than individuals.

The Biden administration will also impose new sanctions on three Israeli settlers, one US official told Axios.

Last month, the US imposed sanctions on four Israeli men it accused of involvement in settler violence in the West Bank.

Houthi Red Sea attack causes no damage, injuries, CENTCOM says

An anti-ship ballistic missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on the Gulf of Aden has caused no damage or injuries, the US Central Command said on Thursday.

In its daily Red Sea report, CENTCOM said the missile was fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

"The missile did not impact any vessels and there were no injuries or damage reported," the CENTCOM said.

CENTCOM added that it "successfully engaged" with the Houthi attacks, destroying four unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) and one surface-to-air missile.

"It was determined these weapons presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region," CENTCOM said.

It added that such actions were taken to "protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels."

rmt/sms (AP, AFP, DPA, Reuters)

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