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Biden administration staffers call for Gaza ceasefire at vigil outside White House

Former State Department official turned activist Josh Paul (center) calls for a ceasefire amid the Israeli regime's war on Gaza, in front of the White House during a vigil on December 13, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Biden administration staffers and political appointees have held a vigil in front of the White House, calling for a permanent ceasefire to end the Israeli regime’s months-long devastating war on the Gaza Strip.

More than three dozen people, including political appointees, administration staffers and civil service career staff, gathered in front of the White House on Wednesday evening to attend the early evening vigil. Most of the participants wore sunglasses and masks to conceal their identities.

The demonstrators held a banner reading “President Biden, your staff demands a ceasefire” and candles were arranged in front of them to spell out “Ceasefire.” They called the violence that has unfolded in Gaza in the course of the war “unacceptable.”

As staffers placed roses by candles in memory of the victims, the names of Palestinians killed since December 1 following the end of a humanitarian pause in the fighting were read aloud from a list that was 33 pages long.

Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned from his job in October over opposing US military aid to Israel, delivered opening remarks.

“The US government’s decision to double down on fueling the violence has put our objectives … around the globe in jeopardy for us to achieve any movement on some of the most intractable issues we face today,” Paul said on behalf of the group.

He added that the temporary truce that ended almost two weeks ago was never enough as the resumption of killings, displacement and bombardment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza has horrified everyone.

“We must move with urgency to save as many lives as possible and achieve an immediate, permanent ceasefire agreement and the return of all hostages,” he said.

Paul, who was the director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for over 11 years, resigned in October over the transfer of arms to Israel amid growing dissent over Biden’s unequivocal support for the occupying regime.

Another former administration staffer read a statement from a group of Palestinian officials who did not want to be identified.

Biden has faced growing calls to support a ceasefire from within his administration, Congress members, and his presidential campaign staff since October 7.

Last month, more than 800 federal employees and independent agency staffers signed a letter, demanding Biden’s urgent support for a ceasefire and immediate de-escalation of violence in Gaza.

The letter was supported by staff across 30 departments and agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, FBI and NASA.

More than a hundred staff members from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed an open letter on Wednesday to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, denouncing the department’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Wednesday vigil came a day after the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding an end to the fighting in Gaza.

The resolution passed with 153 countries voting in favor, and 23 abstaining. The United States and Israel were among the 10 votes against the non-binding resolution.

On Wednesday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 18,608 people, mostly women and children, had been killed, and 50,594 others injured in the Israeli strikes so far.

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