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'Ceasefire now': Anti-war protesters confront US officials at Senate hearing

Antiwar protesters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, stand behind US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a US Senate hearing on Oct. 31, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

A large number of protesters with their hands covered in red paint symbolizing blood have interrupted a congressional hearing, demanding Washington stop funding Israel's killing of Palestinians under siege in Gaza. 

The anti-war protesters repeatedly called for a "ceasefire now!" as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were appealing to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday for billions of dollars more of US taxpayers' money for funding the military forces of Israel, Ukraine and other Washington allies.

They denounced Washington for funding the Israeli regime forces committing genocide against millions of Palestinians in the occupied lands.

The protesters who had their hands covered in red paint to show the US government had blood on its hands due to the Gaza genocide stood in the crowd and called for "Ceasefire now!" and "Protect the children of Gaza!"

One protester cited the thousands of Palestinian children killed in Gaza since the brutal Israeli forces launched airstrikes and, recently, a ground offensive.

The anti-war protesters stood up one by one as Blinken wanted to begin his speech before shouting over him again.

He was forced to pause several times. The police quickly escorted the protesters out. It said 12 people had been arrested.

Blinken acknowledged he heard the protesters during the session. However, he insisted the US must stick to its allies, giving all-out support to the Israeli forces in their weeks-long killing of the Gazans in the besieged Palestinian territory with US-made weapons.

"I ... hear, very much, the passions expressed in this room and outside this room," Blinken said at the end of his opening remarks.

"All of us are committed to the protection of civilian life. All of us know the suffering that is taking place as we speak, all of us are determined to see it end," he said.

He added, however, that it was imperative that the US stand with its allies.

Austin too insisted that it was a "moral responsibility and strategic imperative" for Israel to minimize civilian casualties within Gaza and the West Bank, where some Israeli settlers have murdered more hapless Palestinians.

US President Joe Biden, who claims that funding US allies is vital to America’s security, has asked Congress to approve tens of billions of dollars for Israel, Ukraine, Chinese Taipei and other military purposes.

Biden's call for funding the Israeli forces to kill the Palestinians has drawn huge criticism amid international appeals for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to protect the civilians under the Zionists’ fire.

Meantime, the protest at the Capitol Hill hearing reflected the heightened tensions that have arisen in the United States since Israeli forces started the mass killing of Gazans on October 7 when the Al-Aqsa Storm operation was launched by Hamas. 

While Blinken and Austin were asking for more money, FBI Director Christopher Wray and US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas were at a separate congressional hearing explaining the new threats in the US.

Wray said the US supporting the Israeli regime forces' ongoing slaughter of the hapless Palestinians blocked in Gaza, who are mostly women, children and the elderly, "has raised the threat of attack in the United States to a whole other level."

The FBI chief said the agency is concerned about the potential for individuals or small groups inspired by Hamas to attack within US borders. He said the FBI is on the alert for Islamophobic attacks as well, pointing to a federal hate crimes investigation that is ongoing after an Illinois man was charged with murder at the state level after the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy. "This is not a time for panic, but it is a time for vigilance."

Meanwhile, Muslim American leaders and a number of Democratic Party activists have said they will work to mobilize millions of Muslim voters to withhold donations and votes toward Biden's 2024 re-election bid unless he takes immediate steps to secure a Gaza ceasefire.

The National Muslim Democratic Council, which includes Democratic Party leaders from hotly contested states likely to decide the election, called on Biden to use his influence with Israel to broker a ceasefire by 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

In an open letter entitled "2023 Ceasefire Ultimatum," the Muslim leaders pledged to mobilize Muslim voters to "withhold endorsement, support, or votes for any candidate who endorses the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people."

At least 8,610 Palestinians have been killed since the Israelis started the onslaught of Gazans earlier this month, while more than 23,000 Gazans have been wounded in the besieged territory. The Apartheid Israeli regime forces' "total siege" of Gaza has left a dire need for water, food, medicine and fuel across Gaza.

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