Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, backed a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war Thursday but stipulated that it must start with the release of all hostages.
Asked by CNN’s Poppy Harlow whether it’s time for a cease-fire, Durbin said: “I think it is.”
“At least in the context of both sides agreeing. For example, the release of those kidnapped should be part of this — immediate release. That should be the beginning of it,” Durbin said. “An effort should be made to engage in conversation between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Durbin’s use of the term “cease-fire” is notable in its departure from language used by both President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Biden on Wednesday suggested a “pause” in fighting was needed to “get the prisoners out,” in response to a heckler who asked him to call for a cease-fire.
Asked about his use of the term cease-fire and the fact that the president has purposefully not used the word, Durbin doubled down on the conditions for such a move.
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“Well, I believe that what I said earlier about cease-fire is there are circumstances — for example, the release of those who have been kidnapped as part of it — an indication that this is a good-faith effort on the part of the other side,” he said.
“But no, I’m not communicated with the White House on it,” he said.
Progressive Democrats have repeatedly called on Biden apply diplomatic pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza intensifies.
However, the White House has argued that a cease-fire right now would only benefit Hamas, as Israel in recent days has started its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.
After Hamas killed about 1,400 people in a terrorist attack Oct. 7, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, which it says are targeting Hamas positions but have also killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
Hamas has released a handful of hostages in the past two weeks but is still holding some 240 Israelis and foreign nationals captive, including some Americans.
Gaza’s population of about 2.3 million people has been locked inside the country as fighting intensifies. A first group of foreign passport holders and injured Palestinians were allowed to cross into Egypt, with a larger group — including 400 Americans — given permission to leave Thursday.