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Angus King requests hospital ship to aid Palestinians in Gaza

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.
Alex Brandon
AP file
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine and Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jack Reed are sending a letter to the White House today urging the President to send a U.S. hospital ship to the waters off Gaza to help Palestinians wounded in the fighting with Israel.

France, Italy and Indonesia have already dispatched floating hospitals to the area. King says it's not clear why the U.S. has not.

"Retired Adm. Stavridis proposed this back in the fall, and, in fact, that was one of the things that made me think that this might be a good option, and I don't know why we haven't done it before. To me, it's something that could be done that could really make a difference," he says.

King says he's been told there are risks to placing a hospital ship, with Americans on board, within range of Hamas rockets.

"But I talked to one of our leading military commanders on the ground in the Middle East about this and he was supportive and felt the risk was worth it in terms of the critical humanitarian support this could provide," he says.

The letter notes Stavridis has overseen similar deployments of hospital ships. In addition, King says the letter is also recommending the administration look at sending humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea to get around backups at the land borders between Gaza, Egypt and Israel.

President Joe Biden said Monday that talks could succeed in producing a ceasefire as early as next Monday — but King says he's not seeing evidence of that.

"Well, unfortunately, what I have seen is a response from both Hamas and Israel that they don't see it. There may be — I know there are discussions going on," he says.

Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats voted "uncommitted" in this week's primary, registering a protest against Biden's continued support for Israel in its fight against Hamas. King acknowledged the political toll.

"Politically, yes, I think it's something that the president is going to have to cope with," he says. "I think one of the problems has been that the White House has not communicated the terrible nature of Hamas."

King says Hamas continues to press for Israel's destruction and is an obstacle to any two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.