Israel has announced its agreement to implement daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting in northern Gaza, aiming to provide an opportunity for people to escape the ongoing hostilities. The White House shared this development, hailing it as a step in the right direction.
John Kirby, the spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, confirmed that the initial humanitarian pause would be officially declared on Thursday. Israel has committed to providing at least three hours’ advance notice for each four-hour window, during which no military operations will take place in these designated areas. Kirby noted that this process is commencing immediately.
During negotiations related to the release of captives held by the Palestinian group Hamas, U.S. President Joe Biden had sought a “pause longer than three days” but ruled out the possibility of a comprehensive ceasefire. Kirby clarified that there would be no ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as it might legitimize the actions of the Palestinian group on October 7, a position the U.S. is not willing to accept at this time.
President Biden had personally requested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement these daily humanitarian pauses during a recent phone call. In response to questions about any frustration with the delays in implementing these pauses, Biden stated, “It’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”
Meanwhile, Israel has made it clear that they have not agreed to any ceasefires but will continue to allow brief, localized pauses to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht emphasized, “There’s no ceasefire, I repeat there’s no ceasefire. What we are doing, that four-hour window, these are tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid.”
Taher Al-Nono, a political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, indicated that ongoing negotiations with Israel had not yet resulted in a deal, without providing further details in a statement posted on the group’s Telegram channel.
Reporting from Washington, D.C., Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett explained that these humanitarian pauses have the potential to facilitate the release of captives held by Hamas and allow for the delivery of medicine and food into Gaza, as well as enabling individuals with dual nationality residing in Gaza to leave. She also noted the U.S.’s aim to send 150 aid trucks into Gaza daily.
The death toll from Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7 has reached at least 10,812 Palestinians, while in Israel, over the same period, more than 1,400 casualties have been reported.
However, some experts believe that the United States’ announcement falls short of meeting the critical needs in Gaza. Abdel Hamid Siyam, a Middle East expert at Rutgers University, expressed that “pauses are not a solution” and stressed the necessity for a full ceasefire that allows uninterrupted humanitarian aid, the departure of foreigners, and potential negotiations.
Siyam added, “If this is only a pause to allow people to move from the north to south, it did not work in the past, it will not work in the future. In four hours, people cannot come. They don’t have cars, they don’t have fuel. It’s not going to work.” He also predicted mounting pressure on Israel to initiate a genuine ceasefire in the coming days.