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(photo credit: AP [file])
WASHINGTON - Referring to tremendous suffering caused by Israel's blockade on Gaza, 54 members of Congress sent a letter last week pushing for an easing of restrictions.
The letter, sponsored by US Democratic Representatives Keith Ellison and Jim McDermott, points to specific actions it would like to see Israel take, including greater movement for the sick and students; increased access to clean water and fuel; and more imports of building and other reconstruction materials.
Israel fears that many of those materials would be used by Hamas to further its attacks.
The letter sympathizes with the plight of the Israelis in the south of the country who have been under rocket attack.
"We recognize that the government of Israel has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of further terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups," the authors state.
But the letter's emphasis is on the Palestinians, whom they call on Obama to aid by advocating for an improved situation in Gaza.
"The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt," the congressmen write. "We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts."
An Israeli Embassy spokesman said that Israel doesn't generally comment on congressional letters.
But he stressed that "Israel's position and the position of the international community are identical in terms of Hamas having to live up to the conditions set forth by the Quartet," referring to demands that Hamas recognize Israel, respect previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and repudiate violence.
He also underscored Israel's ongoing actions to allow humanitarian aid to flow into the Gaza Strip.