Vice President Kamala Harris demanded that Israeli officials and leaders of Hamas come to an agreement that would begin an “immediate” six-week ceasefire in Gaza.

Harris called for a pause in Israel’s ongoing war with the Palestinian militant group during a speech in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, on the anniversary of the civil rights march later referred to as “Bloody Sunday.”

“I will repeat that the threat of Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated,” she said. “And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table. This will get the hostages out and give a significant amount of aid in this would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom and self-determination.”

Harris continued: “Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

Harris Calls for Ceasefire
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge during an event to commemorate the 59th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday. During the speech, Harris called on Israeli officials and…


The Context:

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, which was ignited by Hamas’ October 7, 2023, surprise attack where roughly 1,200 people were killed and an estimated 250 people taken hostage, has left more than 30,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Associated Press, which cites figures from the Gaza’s Health Ministry. Women and children make up a majority of the death toll in Gaza. Before the war, Gaza was home to roughly 2.3 million people, but the violence has displaced more than 80 percent of the population. United Nations (U.N.) officials have warned that at least a quarter of the people left in the war-torn territory are facing imminent starvation.

The mounting Palestinian civilian death toll and harrowing images of dead children among the rubble of bombed buildings have ignited international calls for a ceasefire and have heightened pressure on the Biden administration to take a tougher line on U.S. ally Israel. Last week, Israeli leaders faced a fresh wave of condemnation after the Gaza Health Ministry reported at least 115 Palestinians were killed while trying to receive shipments from aid trucks.

Witnesses said that Israeli troops opened fire on people who approached the trucks. However, Israeli officials said that many of those who were killed were trampled while trying to reach the trucks and that troops only fired when they felt endangered by the large crowd.

Harris addressed the aid truck incident during her speech in Alabama.

“As I have said many times, too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” the vice president said. “And just a few days ago, we saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks, simply trying to secure food for their families, after weeks of nearly no aid reaching northern Gaza. And they were met with gunfire and chaos.”

As President Joe Biden campaigns for reelection, he’s been faced with increasing pressure from his own party as Israel’s war against Hamas continues in the Gaza Strip. Progressives in Michigan urged Democratic primary voters to withhold their support from Biden in the state’s primary on February 27 in protest of the president’s policies regarding Israel. Thousands of residents in Michigan, the state with the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S., ended up casting their ballots for “uncommitted” rather than Biden.

Newsweek reached out via email to representatives of the Biden administration and the Israel Defense Forces for comment on Sunday.

What We Know:

Last week, Biden announced a ceasefire deal was in the works, with negotiators tentatively reaching an agreement for Israel to pause fighting for six weeks and allow for the remaining hostages being held by Hamas to be released, according to the AP. The temporary ceasefire would also reportedly allow hundreds of trucks to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza.

A few days after announcing the deal, Biden was critical of Israeli officials and said that there were “no excuses” for Israel’s government to prohibit humanitarian aid from entering Gaza. Biden also vowed that American aid was on its way, and an airdrop delivering meals was conducted the following day, on March 2. U.S. Central Command confirmed to Newsweek that the aid included over 38,000 meals and was dropped “along the coastline of Gaza.”


In recent months, Biden and Harris have been more vocal in criticizing Israel, with the president publicly rifting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli officials dismissed Washington’s calls for Palestinian sovereignty following an end to the conflict in Gaza.

The president initially pledged U.S. support for longtime ally Israel saying the Middle Eastern nation had a right to “self-defense” after Hamas’ October attack and has yet to call for a permanent ceasefire.

However, Harris’ ceasefire demand on Sunday shows a shift in the administration’s stance and comes days after Michigan voters sent a pointed message.

While the president won the state’s Democratic primary, more than 100,000 Michiganders voted “uncommitted” after an effort by Arab-American leaders to show voters’ discontent with the Biden administration’s support of Israel.

A Democratic presidential campaign official acknowledged that the “uncommitted” votes in the Michigan primary were a “substantial” message to Biden.

What’s Next?

On Sunday, negotiations were reportedly underway in Egypt in an attempt to reach a ceasefire agreement before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week, according to the AP. However, Israel did not send a delegation because officials were waiting for answers from Hamas leaders on certain points, the outlet reported.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s wartime cabinet and political rival of Netanyahu, is scheduled to meet with Harris and U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington on Monday, the AP reported. On Tuesday, Gantz is slated to speak with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Update 03/03/24, 7:45 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include more background information.