Israel accepts daily four-hour breaks in Gaza, according to White House | International
The United States announced this Thursday that Israel has agreed to enable daily four-hour pauses in the attacks on Gaza. This agreement announced by the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, coincides with the talks that Israel, the United States and Qatar are holding in Doha, the capital of this Persian Gulf country, negotiations that for now have not achieved their objective of free some of the more than 240 hostages Hamas captured on October 7. With this agreement for humanitarian pauses, Israel gives in—partially—to international pressure, even though there is no official ceasefire. The objective is to allow access for humanitarian aid and for residents of the Palestinian enclave to move south to escape the bombings.
“The fighting continues and there will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages. Israel allows safe transit corridors from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south, as 50,000 Gazans did yesterday (Wednesday), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office made clear in a statement. Both Israel and its main ally believe that a ceasefire would allow Hamas to breathe. Therefore, along the same lines as Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden recognized that in the short term “there is no possibility” of cessation of hostilities.
The agreement — if fulfilled — would represent the first respite in a month of Israeli bombings that have left more than 10,800 dead in Gaza, according to health authorities in the enclave, which Hamas rules. The White House, which announced the initiative, called the decision “a step in the right direction.” But Biden himself acknowledged that the Israeli concession falls short of what he had requested, a pause of more than three days to allow the release of the hostages held by Hamas.
It is “an especially serious mistake” to accept these parentheses without the release of all those kidnapped, criticized the Minister of National Security, the ultra Itamar Ben-Gvir, through the social network X (formerly Twitter). These breaks will be announced three hours before their start. For the transfer of people, Israel will allow two humanitarian corridors between the north and south of the Strip, one on the coast and another, which has already operated for a few hours over the last few days, in the interior, according to the House. White. While the pauses are in effect, Israeli forces will not carry out any type of operation in Gaza, Kirby said. “We want to see those pauses put in place for as long as humanitarian aid is needed,” the US spokesman added.
The high-level meeting in the capital of Qatar took place after local government mediators met with representatives of Hamas on Wednesday, the Reuters agency reports. A delegation from the Islamist movement led by Ismail Haniya and Khaled Mashal has traveled to Cairo. Egypt continues not to accept the departure of refugees from the Strip, beyond some citizens with dual passports and a few dozen wounded. They do so through the Rafah border crossing, the only one that does not border Israel, which is also key in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza by allowing the arrival of aid. Throughout Thursday, 695 foreigners and a dozen wounded people left the Strip, according to Reuters.
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The heads of Mossad, David Barnea, and the CIA, William Burns, the Israeli and American foreign espionage services, held a meeting with the Qatari Prime Minister, Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al Thani, to advance the terms of the pact. Before the White House announcement, the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, tried to curb the possible optimism that the information that different sources were leaking could be generating. “There is no real proposal that is viable from Hamas on this issue,” he told the American network NBC.
The announcement comes after a series of intense diplomatic contacts and negotiations between the United States and Israel, in which President Biden himself has been involved. The tenant of the White House had acknowledged that last Monday, in his last known direct conversation with Netanyahu, he specifically asked for the green light for these respites. Washington's official line is one of optimism. “It is an excellent step, which among other things will help reduce the number of civilian victims,” Kirby described it, who also highlighted American pressure to extract this gesture from Israel.
“The pauses come after the president's personal involvement with the prime minister and various other levels within the Administration. That includes, of course, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who just completed another tour of the region, and conversations that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has had with his counterparts. Also the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. It is undeniable that these decisions have come as a result of enormous involvement by this Administration to guarantee that humanitarian aid enters and people can leave safely,” the senior official stressed.
But the respites to which Israel has given its approval fall far short of what Biden had in mind. This was recognized by the president himself in brief statements to the press that accompanied him on a trip to the State of Illinois. As he noted, he had asked Netanyahu for “a longer pause of three days.” Neither he nor the White House specified what duration he had in mind. For the first time since the start of the crisis, Biden hinted at some irritation with the prime minister of the allied country. Asked if he felt frustrated in his negotiations with Netanyahu, he indicated that the announcement of the pauses "has taken longer than he would have expected."
Israeli military spokesmen insisted that only “tactical pauses” are being carried out in specific places and times in the Strip to allow the population, pushed into forced displacement, to escape the bombings if they do not want to be considered a target of the attacks.
Qatar, host country for some Hamas leaders, has been a necessary hinge for a possible de-escalation from the beginning of the conflict. Their mediation has already managed to free four Israeli women who were kidnapped by the fundamentalist militia on October 7. That day, the darkest in the country's 75-year history and the trigger for the current war, hundreds of armed militiamen entered Israeli territory from Gaza, killing some 1,400 people. In the military operation by land, sea and air in response, in addition to the deaths of more than 10,800 inhabitants of the Strip, 39 members of the invading troops have also fallen. Among those who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean enclave are 99 workers from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Although Israel assures that it has no plans to stay inside Gaza after the war, there are images that are intended to symbolize the future of the conflict. Members of his army boasted of conquering the Strip in a ceremony on the beach of the Palestinian enclave, including the raising of the flag.
Meanwhile, the occupied West Bank and the border with Lebanon, with constant exchange of projectiles between Israel and the Shiite guerrilla Hezbollah, continue to be a source of violence. In the West Bank city of Jenin alone, fifteen Palestinians lost their lives this Thursday during an Israeli military operation that included air and ground deployment.
Also this Thursday, a drone fell on a school in the Israeli city of Eilat, on the shores of the Red Sea, before a missile heading to that same area was intercepted by Israeli anti-aircraft systems. The Houthi rebels had claimed previous attacks of this type from Yemen in the last month.
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