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Ten days after terror attacks by the militant group Hamas provoked a wave of airstrikes and the “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip by Israel, none of Colorado’s members of Congress have joined a small number of their colleagues to call for de-escalation or a ceasefire.
Three even denounced such calls in harsh terms in a Monday letter to President Joe Biden, accusing proponents of de-escalation of supporting “victory for the terrorists.”
Democratic U.S. Reps. Brittany Pettersen of Arvada and Joe Neguse of Lafayette, along with Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, endorsed the letter, which urged Biden to pursue what international observers say would be a significant escalation of the conflict, including by taking punitive action towards Iran. Neguse represents Vail and the majority of Eagle County in Congress.
“Iran must be held fully accountable for its continued role in funding Hamas and Islamic terror,” the letter said. “We urge the Administration to take all necessary steps to cut off Iranian funding sources. This includes maximum enforcement of all U.S. sanctions, and taking any and all steps to end Iran’s oil trade to China.”
Iran has longstanding ties to Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, but U.S. officials have said they have found no evidence directly linking the Iranian government to the attacks, which caught the country’s leaders by surprise.
More than 1,400 people in Israeli were killed when Hamas launched its attack on Oct. 7, and as many as 200 were taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. In the six days that followed, Israeli forces dropped more than 6,000 bombs on the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza, where since 2007 Israel has confined more than 2 million Palestinians, half of whom are children, in what is widely described by human rights advocates as an “open-air prison.” Israel has shut off shipments of food, fuel and electricity to Gaza as part of what it called a “complete siege” of the territory, a tactic that experts and U.N. officials have decried as a violation of international law.
As of Tuesday, the Palestinian health ministry said that the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 3,000, including more than 1,000 children, since Israeli forces began bombing the territory in the wake of the Hamas attacks. Israel has signaled its intent to launch a major ground invasion of Gaza to dismantle the group’s leadership.
Echoing other U.S. and Western leaders, Biden said shortly after the attacks that “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.” In recent days, he has emphasized the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza and urged leaders not to “lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas.”
Those remarks came after a group of 55 House Democrats sent a letter last week to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing “concerns regarding the unfolding humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
None of Colorado’s five Democratic House members were among the signatories to the letter, in which lawmakers wrote that they “unequivocally condemn Hamas’ shocking and horrifying terrorist attack on Israel” while cautioning that “Israel’s response must take into account the millions of innocent civilians in Gaza.” And no Colorado representatives were among the even smaller group of 13 Democrats who on Monday sponsored a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Ground invasion looms
Instead, Pettersen, Neguse and Lamborn on Monday added their names to a letter led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats. In total, 63 Democrats and 50 Republicans signed the letter, which urges Biden to continue providing munitions and other material support to Israel until Hamas and other groups “are decisively defeated.”
“We are already beginning to see calls in some circles for de-escalation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Premature de-escalation would be a victory for the terrorists, and allow them to continue to threaten Israeli civilians with future attacks.”
The letter came just hours before reports that an explosion hit the packed al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, killing at least 500 people, according to the health ministry, in what the Associated Press wrote would be “by far the deadliest Israeli airstrike in five wars fought since 2008.”
As the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens, the congressional delegation’s positions on the conflict are drawing criticism from some Colorado progressives. On Monday, Democratic state Rep. Javier Mabrey of Denver — who was among several progressive leaders to distance themselves from an Oct. 14 statement on the conflict from the Denver chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America — urged support for the ceasefire resolution.
“We have a duty to do everything in our power to save lives,” Mabrey wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I am extremely disappointed that no member of the Colorado delegation has signed on to this resolution calling for a ceasefire.”
Pettersen, who was among many Colorado political figures to speak at a rally in support of Israel on the steps of the Colorado Capitol on Sunday, told the crowd, “We stand with Israeli civilians and we also all stand with the innocent Palestinian civilians,” CBS Colorado reported.
Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat and combat veteran, spoke of the consequences of such an invasion in an Oct. 11 CNN interview. Though he raised the possibility of “tens of thousands of Palestinians being killed or wounded” as a result, he expressed confidence in the Israeli military’s capabilities and said that in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, “Hamas must be destroyed.”
“I do believe we need to find a way to set up a humanitarian corridor for those civilians to leave,” Crow said. “There’s got to be some mechanism put in place, in my opinion, to find a safe pathway for those folks out of the fighting. Otherwise, we are looking at tremendous civilian casualties.”
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.