Israel has agreed to a four-hour daily pause in military operations in parts of north Gaza, according to the White House. This development raises hopes for a respite in the ongoing fighting that has resulted in numerous casualties and heightened concerns about regional conflict. The White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby, described these pauses as significant first steps, as they would allow people to flee through humanitarian corridors and potentially facilitate the release of hostages. However, as night fell, there were no immediate reports of a lull in the fighting in the north of the Gaza Strip, and Israel did not directly confirm the agreement, instead referring to measures that seemed to align with existing arrangements.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant stated that localized and pinpoint measures were being taken to enable the safe exit of Palestinian civilians from Gaza City southward, without detracting from the ongoing war efforts. Israeli forces have already encircled Gaza City and have been allowing civilians to travel along the main route south for a few hours each day, resulting in an increasing number of families choosing to escape. However, Gallant emphasized that there would be no full ceasefire until the hostages were freed and their mission of toppling the Hamas regime and eliminating its military and governance capabilities was completed.
Taher Al-Nono, a political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed that negotiations were ongoing, but no deal had been reached with Israel thus far. The conflict began when Israel launched an assault on Gaza in response to a cross-border raid by Hamas, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and the capture of approximately 240 hostages. This event marked the deadliest day in Israel’s history and drew international condemnation of Hamas while garnering sympathy and support for Israel. However, Israel’s retaliation in the Hamas-ruled enclave has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with Palestinian officials reporting thousands of deaths, including a significant number of children, and severe shortages of basic supplies due to relentless Israeli bombardments.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his desire for a longer pause in the fighting, stating that he had requested a pause longer than three days. He also acknowledged that the process had taken longer than he had hoped, indicating some frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier, the heads of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met with the Qatari prime minister in Doha to discuss a potential deal for hostage releases and a pause in the Hamas-Israel conflict.
In northern Gaza, Israeli forces continued to engage in battles with Hamas militants and gradually approached two major hospitals. Thousands of Palestinians were fleeing from the embattled north to the south, despite the dangerous conditions along the frontline path. Many civilians sought refuge in Al Shifa Hospital and al-Quds Hospital, even as ground battles and Israeli airstrikes persisted. Israel claimed that Hamas had command centers embedded in these hospitals. Meanwhile, officials from around 80 countries and organizations gathered in Paris to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza and find ways to assist wounded civilians trapped in the siege.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that without a ceasefire, the lifting of the siege, and an end to indiscriminate bombing and warfare, the loss of human lives would continue. Israel and the United States argued that a full ceasefire would benefit Hamas. In Gaza City, Israeli tanks were stationed around the area, and both sides reported heavy casualties in intense street battles. Israel, determined to eliminate Hamas, reported the deaths of 33 soldiers in its ground operation, while Hamas remained committed to its goal of destroying Israel.
Thousands of Palestinians sought refuge at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, defying Israel’s evacuation orders. They set up tents on the hospital grounds, claiming they had nowhere else to go. The U.N. humanitarian office OCHA reported that Israel had once again instructed residents of the north to move south, but shelling along the main road endangered evacuees. Those who managed to cross into the south described the harrowing journey, which involved presenting their ID cards to Israeli tanks and then walking several kilometers in search of transportation. Southern areas also faced regular attacks, with witnesses reporting the destruction of a building in Khan Younis by an Israeli airstrike.
Tensions escalated on other fronts as well. Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah fired missiles into Israel, prompting Israeli artillery fire in response. In Jenin city and refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during a counter-terrorism raid, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The Israeli military confirmed the raids but did not provide details on casualties.
In conclusion, the situation in Gaza remains dire, with ongoing fighting, civilian casualties, and a lack of basic supplies. Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and secure the release of hostages continue, but a full resolution to the conflict has not yet been reached. The international community is coordinating humanitarian aid and seeking ways to alleviate the suffering of civilians trapped in the besieged territory.
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