The U.S. Senate, in a bipartisan resolution approved Thursday, calls for a cease-fire in Gaza, but voices support for Israel in its fight against Hamas. The House of Representatives is expected to approve a similar measure.
In its non-binding resolution, the Senate recognizes Israel's right to defend itself against attacks launched from Gaza, and reaffirms strong U.S. support for Israel in its battle with Hamas.
Listing a series of provocations by Hamas dating to 2006, including the launching of rockets at Israel, it also refers to Hamas' record of locating in civilian population centers and using civilians as human shields.
At the same time, senators point to what they call the acute humanitarian situation in Gaza, and urge continuing U.S. efforts to support a durable, enforceable and sustainable cease-fire that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding its capability of launching attacks against Israel.
The resolution's two main sponsors are Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid:
MCCONNELL: "The Israelis have every right to defend themselves against these acts of terrorism."
REID: "Hamas has been firing rockets and mortars into Israel, killing, maiming innocent Israeli citizens for more than eight years."
New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez was among senators speaking in support of the resolution. "It is Hamas that has spent its money on rockets rather than food for the hungry. And it is Hamas that would rather focus on the rhetoric that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel than on relief for their own people," he said.
An almost identical resolution on Gaza likely to be approved Friday by the House of Representatives calls on all nations to, in the words of the measure, lay blame both for the breaking of the calm and subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs - on Hamas. It also reiterates strong support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
At her regular weekly news conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed with reporters what she told Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a recent telephone conversation. "And [I] expressed to him concerns that we have about the collateral damage that is occurring in the Gaza but also reiterating my statement that Israel does have a right, any country has a right to defend its people," he said.
Pelosi was asked at the news conference about the assertion this week by Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich that Israel's use of U.S.-supplied weaponry against Hamas constitutes a violation of the 1976 Arms Export Control Act.
That law states that U.S. weaponry must not be used to, in the words of the statute, to increase the possibility of outbreak or escalation of conflict, but does permit use of arms for what the law calls legitimate self-defense.
Pelosi did not have an immediate detailed reaction to Kucinich's statement. Congressman Kucinich's office declined to provide information Thursday on whether U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has responded to a letter from the lawmaker on the matter.