Israel has agreed to daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in its offensive against Hamas in northern Gaza, according to the White House.
President Joe Biden had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for both daily pauses and a broader three-day cessation to make space for negotiations for the release of hostages held by Hamas. While a formal cease-fire seems unlikely at the moment, the humanitarian pauses are to protect civilians in Gaza.
The National Security Council announced that Israel committed to declaring each four-hour window at least three hours in advance, along with opening a new corridor for civilians to evacuate areas targeted by the military campaign. The U.S. has been urging Israel to take any measures to safeguard Gaza’s civilian population.
President Biden’s request for an extended pause is accompanied by diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas during their October 7 attack. Israeli estimates that there are 239 hostages, including children and the elderly, with fewer than 10 Americans among them. CIA Director William Burns is involved in talks in Qatar, where discussions are underway for a larger release of hostages. Qatar, mediating with Hamas, plays a crucial role in these negotiations.
Israeli officials clarified that the pauses are tactical and local for humanitarian aid, emphasizing no shift in overall military tactics. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel about the potential damage to the prospect of peace if urgent actions to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza are not taken. The situation was also discussed at a Gaza aid conference in Paris, where France invited the U.S., but Israel was not part of the talks.
In summary, Israel has agreed to daily humanitarian pauses, and the U.S. is actively involved in diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. The situation is complex, with both tactical military actions and diplomatic initiatives ongoing.