March 06, 2024

Reps. Castro, Raskin, and Schakowsky Lead 30+ House Democrats in Urgent Appeal to Prevent Israeli Ground Invasion of Rafah

WASHINGTON — Last night, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Chief Deputy Whip for the House Democratic Caucus, led 34 other House Democrats in a letter backing warnings from Biden administration officials about the humanitarian risk of an Israeli military ground invasion of Rafah. A city in southern Gaza, Rafah 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 famine2, 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: 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), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), 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).

The full text of the letter is available here.