Ilhan Omar reacts to Hamas assault on Israel

Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, posted a response to the ongoing Hamas assault on Israel on Saturday, as the number of dead and injured continue to mount.

Hamas launched the invasion and attacks on Israel on Saturday—in a move that appeared to take the Israeli military and security services by surprise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “we are at war,” while Hamas touted its success at abducting and killing Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Omar has been one of Israel’s strongest critics in the U.S. government, regularly condemning what she and others describe as human rights abuses against Palestinians. The Democratic lawmaker’s critics regularly condemn her comments and opposition to Israel as antisemitic. Meanwhile, her defenders have pushed back against that assessment, pointing out that she regularly calls out alleged human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia and other nations as well.

In response to the violence in Israel, Omar posted to X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday afternoon—condemning the actions of Hamas.

“I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we’ve seen, which we cannot allow to continue. We need to call for deescalation and ceasefire,” Omar wrote. “I will keep advocating for peace and justice throughout the Middle East.”

Newsweek reached out to Omar’s office for further comment.

Omar made history as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018, along with Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Both of the progressive lawmakers have regularly condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and have received substantial criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Newsweek also reached out to Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, for comment on the situation in Israel. As of the time of writing, the Michigan representative had not made a public comment on the conflict.

Some groups critical of the Israeli government also responded to the unfolding events. IfNotNow, a progressive Jewish organization in the U.S., condemned the killing of civilians, but pointed to the Israeli government’s actions—suggesting that they had provoked the violent response from Hamas.

“We watch the unfolding horrors with heartbreak and dread for our loved ones – Israelis and Palestinians alike,” IfNotNow said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

“We cannot and will not say today’s actions by Palestinian militants are unprovoked. Every day under Israel’s system of apartheid is a provocation. The strangling siege on Gaza is a provocation,” the organization said. “Settlers terrorizing entire Palestinian villages, soldiers raiding and demolishing Palestinian homes, murdering Palestinians in the streets, Israeli ministers calling for genocide and expulsion. These are the provocations of the most extremist right wing government in Israel’s history and an emboldened fascist movement escalating this crisis across the land.”

Progressive organization Jewish Voice for Peace shared a similar view in a statement forwarded to Newsweek.

“Right now, Palestinians, Israelis and all of us with family on the ground are terrified for loved ones. We grieve the lives of those already lost and remain committed to a future where every life is precious, and all people live in freedom and safety,” the group said on Saturday.

Continuing, Jewish Voice for Peace said that Israel’s “war on Palestinians started over 75 years ago. Israeli apartheid and occupation—and United States complicity in that oppression—are the source of all this violence. Reality is shaped by when you start the clock.”

Israel and its defenders reject the idea that it is an apartheid state. Human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have said that the Israeli governments’ treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid.

The surprise attack by Hamas has already left some 200 dead and some 1,100 wounded, the Associated Press reported, citing Israel’s national rescue service. Hamas reportedly launched its attack on as many as 22 locations outside of the Gaza Strip, gunning down civilians and taking hostages, according to local media reports.

“The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel,” President Joe Biden said in a statement emailed to Newsweek by the White House. “Terrorism is never justified.”

The United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres also “strongly” condemned Hamas’ actions.

“The attacks have so far claimed numerous Israeli civilian lives and injured many hundreds,” a spokesperson for Guterres said in an official statement. “The Secretary-General is appalled by reports that civilians have been attacked and abducted from their own homes.”

Update 10/7/23, 4:51 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comment from Jewish Voice for Peace.

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