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March 6, 2024

Pressley, Castro, Raskin, Schakowsky, Colleagues Send Urgent Appeal to Prevent Israeli Ground Invasion of Rafah

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and 33 other House Democrats in a letter detailing warnings from Biden administration officials about the humanitarian risk of an Israeli military ground invasion of Rafah. Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, has served as the least dangerous place of refuge in Gaza for over one million Palestinians displaced by the current conflict.

“We write to express our deep sense of urgency and alarm about the potentially devastating consequences to innocent civilians of an Israeli military ground invasion of Rafah. We share the position highlighted by US Ambassador to the UN Thomas-Greenfield that “no attacks on Rafah should take place, given current circumstances.” An extensive Israeli offensive in Rafah would further deteriorate the already dreadful conditions for civilians, more than half of whom are on the brink of famine, as well as risk the lives of the 130 Israeli and American hostages still held in Gaza by exposing them to the threat of aerial bombardments and derailing a negotiated agreement that could lead to their release,” the members wrote.

In the letter, members warn that further expansion into Rafah would likely contravene the principles outlined in the Biden administration’s National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), which emphasizes the importance of credible assurances that countries receiving U.S. weapons will use them in adherence with international humanitarian law:

“Calls from members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government for illegal policies such as the expulsion and transfer of civilians to destinations outside the Gaza Strip demand careful attention to make sure that any evacuation plan is consistent with the principles set forth in SM-20. As contemplated by the Administration’s policy, a ground invasion that runs counter to the specific principles outlined in NSM-20 should not be supported by U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance. We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to ensure that the norms of American and international law are observed throughout this conflict and that all recipients of U.S. aid are held accountable to the commitments demanded by NSM-20. Peace is an urgent moral and political imperative, and strict adherence to international humanitarian law will help guide us on the road to peace,” the members concluded.

The full list of signers includes: Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Susan Wild (PA-07), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Andre Carson (IN-07), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Gregorio “Greg” Casar (TX-35), James McGovern (MA-02), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Judy Chu (CA-27), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Sean Casten (IL-06), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Daniel Kildee (MI-05), Becca Balint (VT-At Large), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Danny Davis (IL-07), and Henry “Hank” Johnson (GA-04).

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Throughout this conflict, Rep. Pressley has been a vocal and consistent advocate of diplomacy, de-escalation, and saving lives.

  • Rep. Pressley joined Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) and their colleagues on a resolution condemning Hamas’ brutal attack and hostage-taking, and demanding Hamas immediately release all hostages.
  • Rep. Pressley joined Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), James P. McGovern (MA-02), and 50 colleagues on a letter condemning the terrorist attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel, calling for Israeli military operations to follow the rules of international humanitarian law, and continuing to work toward peace in the region.
  • Rep. Pressley joined her colleagues in announcing a resolution urging the Biden Administration to call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and Gaza, to send humanitarian aid and assistance to Gaza, and to save as many lives as possible. She later joined her colleagues and a multi-faith, multiracial coalition of faith leaders and organizers for a prayer and press conference to renew their calls for a ceasefire. Rep. Pressley also joined dozens of rabbis and Members of Congress for a press conference to renew calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Rep. Pressley delivered a floor speech in which she condemned antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate on college campuses.
  • Rep. Pressley joined a coalition of nearly 100 interfaith clergy and faith leaders on a joint statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Rep. Pressley joined Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), and nearly 150 colleagues in urging the State Department to use all tools at its disposal help get Americans out of Israel and back home to the United States. She applauded the State Department for heeding her calls on October 12, 2023 and continues to press for the urgent evacuation of Americans in Gaza.
  • Rep. Pressley issued a statement following the safe evacuation of Massachusetts constituents Wafaa and Abood Okal and their one-year-old Yousef from Gaza.
  • Rep. Pressley and Rep. Jamie Raskin led a group of 60 House lawmakers in urging the State Department to affirm the United States’ strong opposition to the forced and permanent displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, and to support an increase in humanitarian aid to the region.
  • Rep. Pressley joined Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Betty McCollum (MN-4) and 20 of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden, asking him to support a bilateral ceasefire in Gaza to protect the one million children living there.
  • Rep. Pressley joined a coalition of interfaith clergy and faith leaders for a vigil to mourn the tens of thousands of Palestinians, Israelis, and innocent civilians killed since October 7th, and to renew calls for a ceasefire to save lives, return all hostages, and deliver humanitarian aid to the region.
  • Rep. Pressley joined her colleagues to condemn the Israeli government’s pending invasion of Rafah and continued her calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Rep. Pressley joined her colleagues in calling for full funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide urgent humanitarian relief to Gaza.