Israel has agreed to allow daily four-hour-long pauses in the northern Gaza Strip in order for Palestinians to flee, the White House and Israeli military have announced.
According to the United States’ National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, on Thursday, “We’ve been told by the Israelis that there will be no military operations in these areas over the duration of the pause, and that this process is starting today.” He called the pauses a positive “first step” in easing Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, marking “steps in the right direction.”
The agreement to implement the pauses, the timings of which would reportedly be announced by Israel three hours prior, came after “an awful lot of engagement by the [President Joe Biden] administration to try to make sure that humanitarian assistance could get in and people could get out safely”, Kirby said.
He claimed that “We have been urging the Israelis to minimise civilian casualties and to do everything that they can to reduce those numbers”, emphasising that the pauses will provide “breathing space for a few hours” for Gazan civilians to move southward.
The agreement came amid negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the US to reach a three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the Palestinian Resistance group Hamas’s release of around 12 Israeli hostages. Such a deal would have enabled more aid – including limited amounts of fuel – to enter the besieged Gaza Strip in an effort to alleviate the worsening humanitarian conditions there.
That attempted deal – revealed to the Associated Press by two officials from Egypt, an official from the United Nations and a Western diplomat – was reportedly discussed this week in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, with the visiting chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Israeli delegation, with mediators having been finalising a draft deal.
The agreement for the four-hour pauses seem to be Tel Aviv’s compromise in lieu of its refusal to agree to the initially-intended multiple-day ceasefire, with the Israeli military’s spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht, stressing that Israel did not agree to any ceasefires during its bombardment and military offensive on Gaza, but that it allows the brief pauses. “There’s no ceasefire, I repeat there’s no ceasefire”, Hecht said. “What we are doing, that four-hour window, these are tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid”.
Source : MEMO