Israel has agreed to begin daily four-hour pauses in fighting in northern Gaza to allow people to flee hostilities, the White House has announced, in what it called a step in the right direction.
US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the first humanitarian pause would be announced on Thursday, adding that Israel had committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance.
“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”.
Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a call on Monday.
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.”
Meanwhile, Israel said it has not agreed to any ceasefires, but will continue to allow brief, localised pauses to let in humanitarian aid.
“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,” army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said.
Taher Al-Nono, a political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, said on Thursday that unspecified negotiations were continuing and no deal had been reached with Israel so far.
He gave no more detail in a statement posted on the group’s Telegram channel.
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.
At least 10,812 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. In Israel, the death toll over the same period stands at more than 1,400.
The United States’s announcement has fallen woefully short of the needs in Gaza, Abdel Hamid Siyam, a Middle East expert at Rutgers University, told Al Jazeera.
“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.
Indirect talks were taking place in Qatar – which also played a role in the freeing of four hostages by Hamas last month – about a larger release of hostages.
CIA Director William Burns was in Doha on Thursday to discuss efforts to win the release of hostages in Gaza with the Qatari prime minister and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, according to a US official.
Burns met Mossad chief David Barnea and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the official, who talked to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Qatar is a frequent go-between in international dealings with Hamas.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
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