RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The top Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates is calling on the University of Virginia to condemn a statement recently made by a student group.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-15th) posted a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, regarding a statement from the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA group.

SPJ at UVA posted a statement on Instagram earlier this week in response to the violent clashing taking place between the Israeli military and the Hamas militant group.

This came after Hamas reportedly launched a surprise attack against Israel over the weekend, including hitting an outdoor music festival, resulting in the deaths of more than 250 people.

Among the dead, there are at least 14 Americans, and there are many people who are reportedly being held hostage, including one who used to live in Richmond.

In Gilbert’s statement, he says the statement from SPJ at UVA is a full endorsement of “the rape, murder and kidnapping of innocent people, which we now know includes the beheading of babies.”

Gilbert is calling on leaders at UVA to condemn the statement put out by the students and to take action against the group.

However, he does not specify what kind of action he thinks would be appropriate.

UVA President Jim Ryan sent a message to the university community on Wednesday morning, though he did not directly address the SJP at UVA statement in it.

That message is below:

To the UVA community:

Since Hamas launched the brutal terrorist attacks on Israel on Saturday, it has been heartbreaking to learn of the devastation and sorrow wrought by what can only be described as atrocities in a region that has experienced far too many of them in its history. There can be no justification for, and we must condemn, the actions of Hamas and the horrific violence that has taken place against civilians, including children. Sadly, the terrible war it has provoked will undoubtedly mean that more innocent lives will be lost. Like so many others, I fervently hope for a swift end to the violence.

At UVA, we remain squarely focused on the well-being of UVA community members in Israel and in Gaza, as well as those closer to home who have family or friends in the region, or who are connected to the region by virtue of their faith. I am grateful to our teams in International Studies and the Vice Provost’s Office for Global Affairs, who have been in communication with those known to be traveling in or to the area; thankfully, we can report those individuals are safe at this time.

We have also reached out directly to international students who call the region home. The Office of Student Affairs quickly reached out to students with a message of support and reminding them about available resources. To that end, if you or someone you know needs assistance in coping with difficult circumstances, please don’t hesitate to contact the Office of Student Affairs or our CAPS team for support. Employees in need of support should reach out to FEAP.

We also intend to leverage the expertise of our faculty and staff to advance our understanding of these events and the history that led to them, consistent with our mission as a public institution of higher education. Schools and departments across the University are planning events that will help to shed light on this conflict.

There is no question that this attack and its aftermath have stirred deep emotions within this community, including sadness, fear, grief, and anger. They have also stoked division and rancor around the world along familiar lines of religion and ideology. I trust that we as a community can and will adhere to UVA’s longstanding tradition of not just allowing free speech but promoting civil discourse, even when – perhaps especially when – we strongly disagree.

Each individual in our community is processing these events in their own way, and many are suffering deeply. Asking how we can help, and remembering that we are all here for the purpose of seeking the truth, are useful touchstones for us to support those who are struggling. I have seen our community rise, with strength and grace, to meet challenges we never would have chosen to face. This is another one of those challenges, and I have great faith in this community to build bridges, listen generously, and act with compassion as we work toward a more just and peaceful world.

Finally, on a personal note, I am sorry to be a little slow in reaching out to our community. Someone very dear to me is dying, and that has occupied a good deal of my time, my attention, and my heart. But it has also reminded me of the sacredness of every life, which in turn makes me even more keenly aware of the basic cruelty and tragedy of innocent lives cut short by events and forces beyond their control. My first and last thoughts on all of this will be about them.



Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and others have also denounced the statement from SJP at UVA.


Israel declared war against Hamas in the wake of the weekend attacks. Hundreds of people on both have been killed and thousands of others injured.

For the latest information on the conflict, click here.