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Muslim pilgrims resume symbolic stoning of the devil as they wrap up Hajj pilgrimage in deadly heat

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Muslim pilgrims resume symbolic stoning of the devil as they wrap up Hajj pilgrimage in deadly heat
News

News

Muslim pilgrims resume symbolic stoning of the devil as they wrap up Hajj pilgrimage in deadly heat

2024-06-18 10:28 Last Updated At:10:31

MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, hoping to escape the noontime summer heat that caused heatstroke and sunburns among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage.

The final days of the Hajj coincide with Muslims around the world celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday.

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Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, hoping to escape the noontime summer heat that caused heatstroke and sunburns among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage.

Muslim pilgrims arrives to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrives to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims walk back to their tents after casting stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims walk back to their tents after casting stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Tents for Muslim pilgrims fill the Mina tent camp during the hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Tents for Muslim pilgrims fill the Mina tent camp during the hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Pilgrim buses line up during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Pilgrim buses line up during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

An aerial view of a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

An aerial view of a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024.Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024.Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The stoning of the pillars representing the devil takes place in Mina, a desert plain just outside the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. A third stoning is scheduled Tuesday, before the Farewell Tawaf, or circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca.

The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. The Hajj rites largely commemorate the Quran’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.

The rites have taken place under the soaring summer heat, which at 2 p.m. reached 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Center for Metrology.

“Of course, it is something very hard and tiring. The temperature is abnormal compared to the past years and this affects us a lot,” said Ahmed Al-Baradie, an Egyptian pilgrim, after finishing his second symbolic stoning.

More than 2,760 pilgrims suffered from sunstroke and heat stress on Sunday alone at the start of the first round of stoning, according to the Health Ministry. Jordan announced Sunday that 14 Jordanian pilgrims had died from heatstroke.

The number of pilgrims on the roads leading to the pillars Monday morning decreased significantly compared to Sunday.

Carrying an umbrella against the burning sun, Pakistani pilgrim Khoda Bakhch visited the stoning site on Monday morning and planned to return at sunset. “After two or three hours, it (temperature) may be too much," he said.

Experts say heat exhaustion and heatstroke are likely to become more common in the high temperature, with symptoms including heavy sweating, dizziness, muscle spasms and vomiting. Heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness and happens when the body loses its ability to sweat.

Security forces, medics and first responders have been deployed in and around Mina, especially on roads and open areas to direct and help pilgrims. They treated many people for sunburns on their feet.

“I am really impressed by the preparations,” Sani Abdullah, a Nigerian, told The Associated Press, adding that he was used to such burning heat in his country. “I have never encountered any problems. Everything is going smoothly.”

Later in the day, the sky turned cloudy and it rained for a while, helping taper off the stress of the desert heat.

Mina is where Muslims believe Ibrahim’s faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son Ismail. Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but then God stayed his hand, sparing his son. In the Christian and Jewish versions of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac. The Eid al-Adha holiday celebrates Ibrahim's submission to God.

The stoning began Sunday, a day after the pilgrims visited the sacred Mount Arafat where they spent their day in worship and reflection. The ritual in Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The pilgrims collected the pebbles, which they have used in the symbolic stoning of pillars, from Muzdalifa, an area located a few kilometers (miles) away from Mount Arafat.

The Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. The rituals officially started Friday when the pilgrims moved from Mecca’s Grand Mosque to Mina, then to Mount Arafat. They then return to Mina, where they spend up to three days, each casting seven pebbles at three pillars in a ritual to symbolize the casting away of evil and sin.

While in Mina, the pilgrims visit Mecca to perform a “tawaf,” or circumambulation, which is circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque counterclockwise seven times. Then another circumambulation, the Farewell Tawaf, will mark the end of the Hajj as pilgrims prepare to leave the holy city.

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal.

Most of the pilgrims then leave Mecca for the city of Medina, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

This year’s Hajj came against the backdrop of the devastating Israel-Hamas war, which pushed the Middle East to the brink of a regional conflict.

The war has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians in the besieged strip, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip weren’t able to travel to Mecca for the Hajj this year because of the closure of the Rafah crossing in May, when Israel extended its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Hajj in 2024, slightly less than last year’s 1.84 million, according to data released by the Saudi Hajj and Umra Ministry. This year’s figures included more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, and around 222,000 Saudi citizens and residents.

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrives to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrives to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, as it rains in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims walk back to their tents after casting stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims walk back to their tents after casting stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Tents for Muslim pilgrims fill the Mina tent camp during the hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Tents for Muslim pilgrims fill the Mina tent camp during the hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Pilgrim buses line up during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Pilgrim buses line up during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

An aerial view of a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

An aerial view of a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024.Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024.Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Paramedics carry a muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 16, 2024. Masses of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

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Biden's campaign chair acknowledges support 'slippage' but says he's staying in the race

2024-07-19 23:57 Last Updated At:07-20 00:00

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's campaign is insisting anew that he is not stepping aside as he faces the stark reality that many Democrats at the highest levels want him to bow out of the 2024 election to make way for a new nominee and try to prevent widespread party losses in November.

Meanwhile, six more members of Congress called for him to drop out, making the total now more than two dozen.

Isolated as he battles a COVID-19 infection at his beach house in Delaware, Biden’s already small circle of confidants before his debate fumbling has shrunk further. The president, who has insisted he can beat Republican Donald Trump, is with family and relying on a few longtime aides as he weighs whether to bow to the mounting pressure.

Biden campaign chair Jen O'Malley Dillion acknowledged “slippage” in support for the president, but insisted he is “absolutely” remaining in the race and that the campaign sees “multiple paths" to beating Trump.

“We have a lot of work to do to reassure the American people that yes he’s old, but he can win," she told MSNBC's “Morning Joe” show. But she said voters concerned about Biden's fitness to lead aren't switching to vote for Trump. “They have questions, but they are staying with Joe Biden," she said.

At the same time, the Democratic National Committee ’s rulemaking arm opened its meeting Friday, pressing ahead with plans for a virtual roll call before Aug. 7 to nominate the presidential pick, ahead of the party’s convention later in the month in Chicago.

“President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership and not be battling leaks and press statements,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, told The Associated Press.

It's a pivotal few days for the president and his party: Trump has wrapped up an enthusiastic Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. And Democrats, racing time, are considering the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention.

Amid the turmoil, a majority of Democrats think Vice President Kamala Harris would make a good president herself.

A poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Harris would do a good job in the top slot. About 2 in 10 Democrats don’t believe she would, and another 2 in 10 say they don’t know enough to say.

Democrats at the highest levels have been making a critical push for Biden to rethink his election bid, with former President Barack Obama expressing concerns to allies and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately telling Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step away from the 2024 race.

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich on Friday called on Biden to exit the race, making him the third Senate Democrat to do so.

“By passing the torch, he would secure his legacy as one of our nation’s greatest leaders and allow us to unite behind a candidate who can best defeat Donald Trump and safeguard the future of our democracy,” said Heinrich, who is up for reelection this fall.

And Friday, Reps. Jared Huffman, Mark Veasey, Chuy Garcia and Mark Pocan __ representing a wide swath of the caucus __together called on Biden to step aside.

“We must defeat Donald Trump to save our democracy," they wrote.

Separately, Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois wrote in an op-ed that with “a heavy heart and much personal reflection” he, too, was calling on Biden to “pass the torch to a new generation.”

Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race despite the calls for him to go. And senior West Wing aides have had no internal discussions or conversations with the president about Biden dropping out.

On Friday, Biden picked up a key endorsement from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. CHC BOLD PAC said the Biden administration has shown “unwavering commitment” to Latinos and “the stakes couldn’t be higher” in this election. “President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have delivered for the Latino community,” the group said.

But there is also time to reconsider. Biden has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and key Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit. Among his Cabinet, some are resigned to the likelihood of him losing in November.

The reporting in this story is based in part on information from almost a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.

Biden, 81, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas earlier this week and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.

The president himself, in a radio interview taped just before he tested positive, dismissed the idea it was too late for him to recover politically, telling Univision’s Luis Sandoval that many people don’t focus on the November election until September.

“All the talk about who’s leading and where and how, is kind of, you know — everything so far between Trump and me has been basically even,” he said in an excerpt of the interview released Thursday.

But in Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the others who have called for Biden to drop out. Some prefer an open process for choosing a new presidential nominee.

“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the other Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst — with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting — was “not sustainable.”

However, influential Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries are sending signals of strong concern.

To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden's post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him.

Associated Press writers Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, Ellen Knickmeyer in Aspen, Colorado, Steve Peoples in Milwaukee, and Josh Boak, Will Weissert, Mary Clare Jalonick, Seung Min Kim and Stephen Groves in Washington contributed to this report.

President Joe Biden takes the stage to speak at the 115th NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden takes the stage to speak at the 115th NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks to his car after stepping off of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden is returning to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks to his car after stepping off of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden is returning to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden is returning to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden is returning to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Supporters cheer during the Republican National Convention Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Supporters cheer during the Republican National Convention Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

FILE - Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during an event in Washington, June 23, 2023. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to reconsider his election bid. Speaker Emerita Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn’t step away from the race and that polls showed he likely can’t defeat Donald Trump. And former President Barack Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden’s candidacy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during an event in Washington, June 23, 2023. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to reconsider his election bid. Speaker Emerita Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn’t step away from the race and that polls showed he likely can’t defeat Donald Trump. And former President Barack Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden’s candidacy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - Chairman Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2023. Jittery Democrats seeking to hold onto Senate seats are watching the drama over Biden nervously. Even candidates who seem to be in a strong position are walking a fine line between loyalty to the president and their own political survival. Tester has offered little public support for the president since the debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - Chairman Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2023. Jittery Democrats seeking to hold onto Senate seats are watching the drama over Biden nervously. Even candidates who seem to be in a strong position are walking a fine line between loyalty to the president and their own political survival. Tester has offered little public support for the president since the debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - Former President Barack Obama speaks in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2023. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to reconsider his election bid. Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden’s candidacy. And Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn’t step away from the race and that polls showed he likely can’t defeat Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

FILE - Former President Barack Obama speaks in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2023. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to reconsider his election bid. Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden’s candidacy. And Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn’t step away from the race and that polls showed he likely can’t defeat Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at the 115th NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, July 16, 2024. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for Biden to reconsider his election bid. Former President Barack Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden's candidacy. And Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn't step away from the race. Biden says he's not dropping out believing he's best to beat the Republican Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at the 115th NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, July 16, 2024. Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for Biden to reconsider his election bid. Former President Barack Obama has privately expressed concerns to Democrats about Biden's candidacy. And Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately warned Biden that Democrats could lose the ability to seize control in the House if he didn't step away from the race. Biden says he's not dropping out believing he's best to beat the Republican Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

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