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Pingree joins group urging suspension of military aid to Israel

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, addresses supporters after being reelected, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Portland, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, addresses supporters after being reelected, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Portland, Maine.

Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree is among 40 Democratic members of Congress who want the Biden administration to suspend new military assistance to Israel following an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy. 

In a letter sent late last week, Pingree and the 39 other representatives urged President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to withhold additional transfers of weapons until a complete investigation of the incident has been completed. Seven workers with World Central Kitchen were killed last weekwhile traveling in clearly marked vehicles whose movements had been coordinated with the Israeli military.

"If this strike is found to have violated U.S. or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable," the group wrote on April 5.

"We also urge you to withhold these transfers if Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers, and if it fails to facilitate — or arbitrarily denies or restricts — the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza," they wrote.

The letter is the latest example of growing frustration among Democratic lawmakers about the Biden administration's policies toward Israel.

The deaths of the aid workers prompted World Central Kitchen and some other organizations to suspend emergency deliveries of food into Gaza, parts of which are in the brink of famine. More than 32,000 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed since Israel launched the war in response to Hamas terrorist attacks in October that killed roughly 1,200 Israelis.

Last week, Biden had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel needed to take "a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps" to reduce civilian deaths and to allow additional humanitarian assistance into Gaza, according to NPR. In response, Israel said it would open additional aid routes into Gaza.

"The president made clear that absent changes in the protection of civilians on the ground, absent changes to the volume of humanitarian assistance getting in, absent any movement on a cease-fire that will allow hostages to get out and more aid to get in — absent a calming-down — that he will have to reconsider his own policy choices with respect to Gaza," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters last week.

Pingree, who represents Maine's 1st Congressional District, had previously joined five senior House Democrats in making a similar request last month if Israel restricted humanitarian aid into Gaza.