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Israeli military announces daily ‘tactical pause’ along aid corridor in Gaza

Displaced Palestinians queue for water at a camp west of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip on May 21.  (-/AFP)
By Leo Sands, Susannah George, Niha Masih and Sammy Westfall Washington Post

The Israeli military on Sunday announced it had begun a daily 11-hour pause of operations along an aid corridor in southern Gaza to safeguard deliveries of humanitarian relief – a move that some within the government denounced.

The limited “tactical pause” will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. each day “until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Sunday. The IDF later clarified that there is “no cessation of fighting” elsewhere in southern Gaza, including Rafah.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir denounced the plan, saying on X that “whoever decided on a ‘tactical truce’ … is an evil and a fool who should not continue in his position.” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called the pause announcement “delusional” and “detached,” adding that the “‘humanitarian aid’ that continues to reach Hamas keeps it in power and may put the achievements of the war down the drain.”

The announcement came as Muslim families in Gaza, amid rubble and ruin on Sunday, marked the beginning of a somber Eid al-Adha holiday, which signals the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca


Aid organizations warned that food and water were scarce, and that parts of the territory may already be suffering from famine. The World Food Program said at least 1 million people in the enclave’s south were trapped “without clean water or sanitation.” UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinians, said that more than 50,000 children in Gaza need treatment for acute malnutrition, and Doctors Without Borders said that some were surviving on “pigeon food.”

The arrival of summer heat is also compounding the threats of violence, hunger and thirst that the displaced Gazan civilians already faced, aid groups said. UNICEF spokesman James Elder said the onset of high temperatures in the enclave – where it is forecast to surpass 90 degrees this week – added a new dimension to the unfolding humanitarian disaster. “It’s hot,” Elder said in a video shared Saturday from a tent camp in Khan Younis. “The heat here simply further increases that hardship on children.”

On Sunday, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh marked Eid al-Adha with an address to Palestinians that framed Hamas’s response to cease-fire negotiations as “consistent” with the principles underpinning a proposal outlined by President Biden last month. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that some of the changes proposed by the militant group were “not workable.”

In his speech, Haniyeh said: “What we gave to the mediators is consistent with the principles proposed by Biden and with the Security Council resolution. … We are ready to conclude an agreement that includes a permanent cease-fire and withdrawal of Israelis.”

On Tuesday, Hamas said it submitted to Qatari and Egyptian mediators its response to the U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal, which the U.N. Security Council separately approved in a rare diplomatic victory on Gaza for the Biden administration in the U.N. body. In its response, the militant group said it emphasized the need for complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

If agreed on, the U.S.-backed plan would begin with a complete cease-fire lasting six weeks.

During that period, Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas; Hamas would release all women, children, elderly and wounded hostages; Palestinians would be allowed to return to their homes throughout Gaza; and the enclave would be flooded with humanitarian aid.

Although Israel said it “authorized” the U.S.-backed plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his government have publicly objected to certain elements of it, and Netanyahu has indicated that he intends to continue military operations until all elements of Hamas are destroyed.

Scott Anderson, the director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza, said the limited military pause announced Sunday is “very welcome” but cautioned that “this isn’t a cease-fire” as military operations are ongoing in southern Gaza.

“In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had incidents where there is kinetic activity quite close to our convoy – as close as 100 meters, which is frightening,” he said in an interview. “We welcome this (tactical pause) and hope that it will allow us to move freely back and forth” from the border crossing, he said.

For more than a month, aid organizations have struggled to get food, fuel and other supplies into Gaza after Israel’s military operation in Rafah shut the territory’s main border crossing with Egypt.

Since then, some aid trucks have been allowed to enter through the smaller Kerem Shalom crossing, and other crossings in the north have been reopened, but the volume remains insufficient to meet the need in Gaza after more than seven months of war. On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would “temporarily relocate” a floating pier built by the U.S. military off Gaza’s coast to supplement aid deliveries, after previously suspending its use because of rough seas.

Anderson said the pier has so far failed to supplement aid deliveries into Gaza in a meaningful way. “It didn’t move the needle,” he said.

Here’s what to know

- National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Saturday that the United States has “given feedback” to Hamas’s response to the latest cease-fire proposal, and he anticipates a “back and forth” between mediators and Hamas. He said some of Hamas’s changes were expected and can be managed, and some were inconsistent with the proposal backed by Biden and the U.N. Security Council. Sullivan said the next step is for Qatari and Egyptian mediators to engage Hamas to “go through … what can be worked with and what really can’t be worked with. And then essentially try to get the feedback from Hamas on that feedback.” He said he hopes to be able to report this week where the negotiations stand but that diplomatic efforts may be slower over the next few days given the Eid holiday.

- The crew of a cargo ship targeted by Yemen-based Houthi militants last week issued a distress call Saturday and abandoned the ship after being unable to control the fires, U.S. Central Command said. The mariners of the MV Verbena – a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated carrier – were rescued by the MV Anna Meta after a nearby Iranian frigate did not respond to the distress call. The MV Verbena was hit on Thursday by two anti-ship cruise missiles as it passed through the Gulf of Aden. On Saturday, Centcom said it destroyed seven radars in Yemen used by Houthis to target maritime vessels.

- At least 37,337 people have been killed and 85,299 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 308 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

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Suzan Haidamous contributed to this report.


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