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LONDON: A top Democrat senator in the US has called on President Joe Biden to “use all levers” at his disposal in pressuring Israel to change its war strategy, The Guardian reported.

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is part of a group of seven senators who this week sent to a letter to Biden urging an end to US weapon deliveries to Tel Aviv.

The US must stop providing military aid to Israel until it ends any restrictions on the flow of aid into Gaza, Van Hollen said.

In an interview on Friday, the senator urged Biden to “push harder and use all the levers of US policy to ensure people don’t die of starvation.”

Van Hollen’s co-signed letter to the president accused Israel of violating the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits the transfer of weapons to any power that restricts the supply of US humanitarian aid.

Israel had reportedly sent a written commitment, via Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, that it would operate in line with the US act in prosecuting its war on Hamas.

The senators’ letter follows mounting controversy over Washington’s “contradictory” role in the conflict, with the US arming Israel, while also attempting to address the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Anger over the US response to the Israel-Hamas war has opened rifts in the Democratic party, but also between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli leader is “openly defying” Biden’s repeated appeals to limit civilian casualties in Gaza and work toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Van Hollen said.

He added: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has been an obstacle to the president’s efforts to at least create some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.”

Biden, over recent weeks, has escalated his rhetoric toward Netanyahu’s government, accusing the Israeli leader of damaging his country’s standing in the world.

However, he has also rebuffed appeals from within his own party to use essential military aid to Israel as a bargaining chip to control the consequences of the war.

The US administration has turned to air and sea deliveries of aid to address what the UN has called “catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” in Gaza.

But critics warn that truck deliveries by road into the enclave remain the only viable method of easing the humanitarian crisis.

Van Hollen said: “The very fact that the US is airlifting humanitarian supplies and is now going to be opening a temporary port is a symptom of the larger problem, which is (that) the Netanyahu government has restricted the amount of aid coming into Gaza and the safe distribution of aid.”

Israel has denied impeding the flow of aid by road into the enclave.

However, UN statistics show that about 500 trucks per day arrived into Gaza daily before the outbreak of the war, compared with an average of about 200 now.

The US senator said he had inspected the border situation himself during a visit to Rafah in January, describing the Israeli-led security checks as “cumbersome.”

Van Hollen added: “You witnessed these very, very long lines of trucks trying to get in through Rafah and through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and quite an inspection review, including arbitrary denials of humanitarian aid being delivered into Gaza.

“For example, we visited a warehouse in Rafah that was filled with goods that had been rejected at the inspection sites. The rejected goods included things like maternity kits, water purification systems.”

The senator also highlighted the killing of aid workers responsible for distributing aid.

Widespread famine in Gaza will be “almost inevitable” without action, the UN has warned.

In the senators’ letter to Biden, Van Hollen and his colleagues urged the president to “make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access, and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences, as specified under existing US law.”

The US leader has warned Israel would breach a “red line” if it moves ahead with plans to attack Rafah, where almost half Gaza’s population are gathered.

Biden’s comments have set up a potential face-off with Netanyahu, in what would present “one of those moments where the Biden administration is going to have to decide whether it’s going to back up the president’s strong words with the leverage that it has,” Van Hollen said.

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