U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal made a push Monday for increased support to Israel, including both humanitarian and military aid.
“The invasion that Israel will mount requires aid from the United States because Israel will defend itself,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building before heading back to Washington.
Blumenthal, a member of both the Senate’s Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, said the U.S. has a “vital national security interest” in Israel, which has been at war since Hamas attacked the country more than a week ago.
According to CNN, more than 1,400 people have died in Israel since the first attacks. Israel has responded with its own military actions, pre-emptively urging civilians in Gaza City to leave amid bombings.
Blumenthal’s comments come as the White House pushes for more than $2 billion in total aid for Israel and Ukraine, which also remains in a war following Russia’s February 2022 invasion.
Blumenthal said he favors supporting both countries, but acknowledged Congress may need to approve multiple aid packages due to a lack of initial support. He said his initial priority is to provide help for Israel.
“It has to respond, it has to defend itself,” he said. He added that he supports specifically sending a resupply of intercept missiles for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, as well as precision guided munitions and other artillery.
He also said the package would also include humanitarian aid for both Israel and Gaza. News reports indicate the death toll in Gaza from Israeli air strikes was more than 2,500 by Monday afternoon.
Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said during Monday’s press conference that roughly 1 million Palestinians have been displaced since Oct. 7.
She also said UNRWA hasn’t been able to provide additional humanitarian supplies to crews in Gaza since Oct. 7.
Touma asked that Israel halt its siege on Gaza so that UNRWA and other humanitarian groups could get supplies into the area.
“We feel that the levels of desperation and frustration and exhaustion among our staff, specifically, increases by the hour the longer this goes on,” she said.
Members of Congress have also called for humanitarian aid to Gaza, even as the U.S. has moved quickly to show it stands with Israel.
“Two things can be true, while I condemn the horrific attack by Hamas, I am deeply concerned about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the assault on innocent Palestinians,” U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th, said Saturday via social media.
Blumenthal agreed, saying Israel’s “war is not against the Palestinians, it’s against Hamas.” He said military supplies would allow Israel’s military to launch a “strategic strike” to minimize harm against civilians.
Meanwhile, groups in Connecticut continue to raise money to send to Israel for humanitarian relief and support with rebuilding.
Carolyn Gitlin, co-chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s emergency fundraising effort, said the organization has already raised more than $3 million toward its goal of $5 million.
“The money is coming in very swiftly,” she said. “People are being very generous.”
Aside from the support to Israel, Blumenthal said Congress needs to increase the aid it provides to various groups in the U.S. for security to protect against hate crimes.
This would include funding for synagogues, mosques, churches, and other religious and community organizations.
Blumenthal referenced the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy, reportedly by his family’s landlord in Illinois over the weekend.
“We should denounce this kind of hate crime, just like we would an anti-Semitic or anti-Christian crime,” he said.