US Says Israel Has Agreed To Brief Pauses In Gaza, But Rules Out Ceasefire

An enclave of 50 countries, the UN discuss aid for Gaza even as the border neighbourhood of Rafah was bombed and Palestinians killed in the West Bank

US Says Israel Has Agreed To Brief Pauses In Gaza, But Rules Out Ceasefire

In a breakthrough in the 34-day Israeli bombardment campaign in Gaza, the United States on Thursday said that Tel Aviv has agreed to brief pauses in the northern part of Gaza.

"Israel will begin to implement four-hour pauses in areas of northern Gaza each day," said US National Security Council Spokesperson Admiral John Kirby. He added that announcements will be made three hours ahead of the pause and will allow civilians to flee.

Kirby said that Israel has said there will be no military operations in Gaza City and other areas in northern Gaza during the duration of the pause. The pause will commence on Thursday and will be repeated daily.

Last week, Israel launched a ground incursion into northern Gaza and was said to have split the narrow territory into two and has encircled the northern part of the strip with forces launched from the ground, air and sea into the narrow strip.

However, they have faced stiff resistance from Hamas, and intense battles are raging, with both sides claiming casualties on the other. 

Israel is said to be seeking over 200 Israelis who Hamas took hostage during the October 7 surprise attack that reportedly left 1,400 Israelis dead. The Israeli bombing campaign, which has lasted for over a month since has killed over 10,500 civilians, most of them children, women and elderly, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

It was not clear if the pause was granted in exchange for the release of hostages, even as there were reports of talks on allowing a three-day gap in exchange for hostages. However, some diplomats suggested that an exchange was part of the deal.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire even as international pressure mounts. However, he later said that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open a period of pause that stretches longer than three days.

Last month, the US vetoed resolutions in the United Nations Security Council, which called for a ceasefire after objecting to the language contained in the resolution.

Violence continues

The violence continued in Gaza on Thursday, with targets in the border neighbourhood of Rafah being struck, killing at least 20 people in what locals claimed were Israeli air strikes. 

With vehicles in Gaza having run out of fuel, thousands of Palestinians, with their belongings laden on their backs and nowhere to go after homes were demolished and camps and shelters overfull, streamed towards the border seeking refuge further south in Gaza, or if possible, across the border in Egypt.

Waving white flags and with their hands high in the air, the Palestinians streamed towards the border in what many described as a new Nakba.

Later on Thursday, the vicinity of the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza came under heavy bombardment, which turned the night sky amber. With homes targeted, thousands take shelter in hospitals at night as one of the last few places thought to be relatively safe since churches, mosques and schools were all bombed. Palestinians said that at least 60 mosques in Gaza have been destroyed.

Israel has claimed there is a Hamas command centre under the Al Shifa Hospital. It has earmarked it as ground zero, with its ground troops slowly making their way there.

Meanwhile, the violence continued in the West Bank, where more than 155 have been killed since October 7, per the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry. In the last 24 hours, at least ten were killed in Jenin.

Israel has been involved in skirmishes in the West Bank while settlers have accelerated the dispossession of Palestinians from their lands there. 

Israel has also launched a crackdown against pro-Palestinian Palestinians, arresting over 2,300 people in the West Bank per the Commission for Detainees' Affairs. This includes prominent activist Ahed Tamimi. 

In videos circulating on the internet, Israeli police are seen arresting a woman for allegedly posting a pro-Palestinian status on the messaging application Whatsapp.

'Insupportable situation'

Meanwhile, at a conference of 80 countries to gather aid for Gaza held in Paris, the United Nations Aid Chief Martin Griffiths described the condition in the territory under constant bombardment as an 'insupportable situation'. 

With the few aid trucks allowed into Gaza also coming under attack, he said that supplying aid was challenging.

He added that allowing the situation to continue in Gaza would be a "travesty".

"The United Nations cannot be part of a unilateral proposal to push hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians in Gaza into so-called safe zones; we cannot be a part of this," he said, describing the conflict in Gaza as a wildfire that could engulf the entire region.

He said that civilians need to be protected, and their essential needs must be met wherever they are and wherever they decide to be.

The conference reiterated a call for humanitarian pauses as French President Emmanuel Macron, who had previously come out strongly in support of Israel's right to defend itself and, was among the Western leaders to fly to Tel Aviv and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express support, on Thursday said that "all lives have equal worth" and that a fight against terrorism "can never be carried out without rules."

Protecting civilians was "absolutely essential. It is non-negotiable,” he said.

“All lives have equal worth, and there are no double standards for those of us with universal and humanist values,” he said.

“Fighting terrorism can never be carried out without rules. Israel knows that. The trap of terrorism is for all of us the same: giving in to violence and renouncing our values," he added.

Not possible to eliminate Hamas 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who went viral this week for a video from his cabinet meeting when he broke down speaking about the children who had been martyred in Gaza, stated that Israel's goal to eliminate Hamas is unattainable.

In an interview with [France24], he said, "Israelis don't want a ceasefire because today the Israelis are in the mood of revenge, genocidal revenge, collective killing, killing for the sake of killing, and the goals they are setting [of eliminating Hamas], they will never reach these goals," he said, adding that we should ask the Israelis to stop the war.

Asked why he said Israel would be unable to eliminate Hamas, Shtayyeh explained that Hamas is not only in Gaza. Hamas, he explained, is an idea; it is not only a military structure or an organisation in Gaza; Hamas is in the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria; Hamas leadership is in Qatar; it is everywhere. So this thing to say that the goal is to eliminate Hamas is totally not going to happen."

Earlier in the conference, Shtayyeh stated: “What Israel is doing is not a war against Hamas; it’s a war against the whole Palestinian people.”