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US congress votes to back Israel
Politicians pass resolution "recognising Israel's right to defend itself".
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2009 16:18 GMT
Israel and the US have a long history of close
ties [GALLO/GETTY]

The US House of Representatives has voted to endorse a resolution backing Israel in its offensive in Gaza, in which at least 780 Palestinians have been killed.

The body passed Friday's resolution "recognising Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza" by 390 votes to five.

The measure also noted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza "is becoming more acute" but did not rebuke Israel.

Keith Ellison, the only Muslim member of US congress, was among the 22 members of the House who voted "present", which means that they voted neither in favour or against the resolution.

"I cannot vote against this resolution because I believe every country in the world has the right to defend itself," the Minnesota congressman said in a statement.

"At the same time I cannot vote for this resolution because it barely mentions the human suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza."

Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic congressman for Ohio who voted against the bill said before the vote: "I'm hopeful that we do not support the inhumanity that has been repeatedly expressed by the Israeli army."

"We must take a new direction in the Middle East, and that new direction must be mindful of the inhumane conditions in Gaza".

US-Israel ties

Washington has been Israel's closest ally since 1948, when Harry Truman, the former president, made the US the first country to recognise Israel.

The US has been repeatedly criticised by Arabs for its unstinting support of Israeli actions. The US frequently blocks United Nations resolutions critical of Israel and on Thursday abstained from a Security Council vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The House has passed similar measures in recent years by massive majorities.

In 2006, the House voted to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah for "unprovoked and reprehensible armed attacks against Israel" and supported Israel's incursion into Lebanon.

In 2004, the body voted to support a statement by George Bush, the US president, that it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return completely to its pre-1967 borders.

The US senate had voted on Thursday to back its own resolution offering "unwavering commitment" to Israel.

That recognised "its right to act in self-defence to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism" and urged a ceasefire that would keep Palestinians from firing rockets at Israel.

Harry Reid, who leads the Democratic majority in the senate, said on Thursday following that vote: "Our resolution reflects the will of the state of Israel and the will of the American people."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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