Israel set to commence daily four-hour ‘pauses’ in north Gaza fight

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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood, where buildings are heavily damaged or collapsed in the southern part of Gaza City on November 9, 2023 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The White House has confirmed that Israel has agreed to implement daily four-hour ceasefires in northern Gaza, allowing people to escape the ongoing hostilities.

According to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, the first humanitarian pause will be declared on Thursday. Israel has committed to providing a three-hour advance notice before announcing each subsequent four-hour window, marking what the White House considers a positive development.

“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,” Kirby said.

US President Joe Biden told reporters that he had asked Israel for a “pause longer than three days” during negotiations over the release of some captives being held by Palestinian group Hamas, but he ruled out the chances of a general ceasefire.

Kirby made clear that there would be no ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, saying it would help the Palestinian group “legitimise what they did” on October 7, “and we simply are not going to stand for that at this time”.

During a call on Monday, President Biden requested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement daily four-hour ceasefires, a plea that has now been accepted.

Biden, when asked if he was frustrated by Netanyahu over the delays in instituting humanitarian pauses, said, “It’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”

Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said these pauses “will allow for the potential release of captives that Hamas is currently holding … and for medicine and food to get in and for those living inside Gaza who have dual nationality to get out”.

“The United States also said it aims to get 150 aid trucks in Gaza daily,” she added.

The recent announcement by the United States regarding daily four-hour ceasefires in northern Gaza has been criticized as inadequate by Abdel Hamid Siyam, a Middle East expert at Rutgers University.

He argued that the current situation demands more significant measures to address the pressing needs in Gaza, where at least 10,812 Palestinians have lost their lives in Israeli attacks since October 7. The death toll in Israel during the same period exceeds 1,400.

“Pauses are not a solution,” he said, adding that what is needed is a “ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can come in uninterrupted, that foreigners can leave the country, and maybe negotiations can take place”.

“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,” he said. “In four hours, people cannot come. They don’t have cars, they don’t have fuel. It’s not going to work.”

“There is mounting pressure on Israel now to open up for a real ceasefire, a real truce for a day or two or three. I think that is coming in the next few days,” he said.

CIA Director William Burns engaged in discussions about hostage release efforts in Gaza during his visit to Doha, where he met with Mossad chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The talks, held in Qatar, a key intermediary with Hamas, aimed at broader negotiations for the release of additional hostages. Qatar played a recent role in the release of four hostages by Hamas.

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