Israel-Hamas war: Israel agrees to 'pauses' in Gaza, says US
According to the White House, Israel has agreed to implement four-hour daily "pauses" in its military operations in northern Gaza
Israel will begin daily four-hour pauses in northern Gaza to allow people to flee fighting in the territory, the White House has said.
US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the first humanitarian pause would be announced Thursday, and that the Israelis had committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance.
Kirby said the pauses would allow people to get out of harm's way and for deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. He added that breaks in fighting could also be used as a way to get hostages out.
"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.
The White House said US President Joe Biden had asked Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a Monday call.
The death toll in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under heavy Israeli bombardment for over a month, has risen to 10,812, Hamas health authorities in Gaza said. The dead include 4,412 children, the Gaza health ministry said. Some 26,905 more people have been injured, it added.
The conflict in Gaza follows the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel, which Israel says left more than 1,400 dead. The militant group also captured some 240 people as hostages. Israel, the US, Germany and the EU have listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is to travel to West Asia on Friday, where she's scheduled to stop in Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The German foreign office said Baerbock will hold talks focused on the release of German hostages held by Hamas, as well as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and efforts to prevent the conflict from expanding.
Meanwhile, the volume of aid coming into the besieged Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt is "blatantly inadequate", said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Addressing an international conference on Gaza in Paris, Lazzarini called for all border crossings into the territory to be opened, "in particular, crossing points with Israel like Kerem Shalom".
The UNRWA chief mourned the 99 members of staff at the UN agency killed since the start of the conflict, describing the period since the 7 October attacks as a "painful month for UNRWA", whose death toll is "the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time".
Lazzarini, who visited Gaza last week, said what he had seen there was "heartbreaking", and warned of a "looming public health hazard" owing to poor sanitary conditions. "Thousands of children killed cannot be collateral damage," he said. "Pushing a million people from their homes and concentrating them in areas without adequate infrastructure is forced displacement. Severely limiting food, water and medicine is collective punishment."
Lazzarini also warned of a potential spillover of the conflict to the occupied West Bank, where he said "military incursions by Israeli forces and settler violence have caused record high death tolls among Palestinians". At least 10 people were killed and 20 injured during an Israeli raid on Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said on Thursday.
The Israeli military said its forces were conducting counterterrorism raids in Jenin. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it carried out aerial attacks on "armed men" who shot at the forces and "threw explosives", leading the IDF to respond by shooting at them. The IDF also said it arrested nine wanted individuals in the Jenin refugee camp overnight, with a demolition order signed for the house of a person accused of carrying out a stampede attack in August.
On the other hand, Netanyahu has once again rejected the prospect of a ceasefire in Gaza. "I would like to set aside all kinds of false rumours that we are hearing from all sorts of directions and re-clarify one thing: There will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages," Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
He made the remarks amid media reports of negotiations for the release of a dozen hostages held by Hamas in return for a three-day ceasefire in Gaza. Netanyahu has said the Israeli military's goal is to destroy Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Several governments designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, including the US, the EU, and Germany.