Rep. Keith Ellison and a fellow congressman toured the Gaza Strip today to see the damage from recent attacks firsthand. Their visit is the first time anyone from the United States government has entered into Gaza in more than three years.
On Friday, Ellison and Rep. Brian Baird of Washington will tour the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon to see the damage there.
In a press release sent out this morning, Ellison talked about the trip and what he saw during the tour. Ellison was the first Muslim member of Congress.
"We also want to better understand what can and must be done to recover from the devastation, address the underlying issues, and work toward a lasting, just and peaceful resolution," Ellison said. "The stories about the children affected me the most. No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here."
Before entering Gaza, Ellison and Baird met with the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, and traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Dr. Riad Malki, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
The Congressman learned about some of the aid material that isn't making it past Israeli Government including lentils, macaroni, tomato paste, and other common food products. Building supplies have also been held back.
"If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. We are glad that President Obama acted quickly to send much needed humanitarian funding to Gaza for this effort. However, the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food, and repair and reconstruction materials are unacceptable and indefensible. People; innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in" said Ellison in the release.
The congressmen said the first priority is to help people effected by the violence and to stop such violence immediately.
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Ellison said he doesn't want to assign blame and thinks the conflicts need to be solved through diplomacy.