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The Israeli army says it will pause daytime fighting along a route in southern Gaza to help aid the flow

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with Secretary of State Blinken, US Department of State

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army announced Sunday it would pause daytime fighting along a route in southern Gaza to clear a backlog of humanitarian help supplies for desperate Palestinians facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the war, now in its ninth month.

The “tactical pause,” which applies to about 12 kilometers (7½ miles) of road in the Rafah area, falls far short of a full ceasefire in the area sought by the international community. including Israel’s most important ally, the United States. It could help meet the overwhelming needs of Palestinians, which have increased sharply in recent weeks following the Israeli incursion into Rafah.

The military said the daily break would start at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and last until 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) and continue until further notice. It is intended to allow emergency trucks to reach the nearby Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main access point, and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway, a major north-south road, the military said. The crossing has been completed a bottleneck since Israeli ground forces entered Rafah in early May.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, said the route would increase the flow of aid to other parts of Gaza, including Khan Younis, the coastal area of ​​Muwasi and central Gaza. Hard-hit northern Gaza, an early target in the war, is served by goods arriving from the north.

The military said the pause, which begins as Muslims begin celebrating the holiday Eid Al-Adhacame after talks with the United Nations and other aid organizations.

A UN spokesman, Jens Laerke, told The Associated Press that Israel’s announcement was welcome but that no aid was sent from Kerem Shalom today, without details. Laerke said the UN hopes to see further concrete measures from Israel, including smoother operations at checkpoints and regular imports of fuel.

Israel and Hamas do about the latest ceasefire proposal, detailed by US President Joe Biden in the administration’s most concentrated diplomatic effort to stop the fighting and release the hostages taken by the militant group. While Biden described the proposal as an Israeli one, Israel has not fully embraced it. Hamas has demanded changes that seem unacceptable to Israel.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to continue the war and many members of his far-right government opposing the ceasefire proposal, news of the military’s pause caused a minor political storm.

An Israeli official quoted Netanyahu as saying the plan was “unacceptable to him” when he heard about it. The official said Netanyahu was assured that “there is no change” in military policy and that “the fighting in Rafah will continue as planned.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Israeli television stations later quoted Netanyahu as criticizing the military: “We have a country with an army, not an army with a country.”

But neither Netanyahu nor the military have canceled the new arrangement. While the army insisted that “there is no cessation of fighting” in southern Gaza, it also said the new route would be open during the day “solely for the transportation of humanitarian aid.”

The fighting continued. Nine people, including five children, were killed on Sunday when a house was hit in Bureji in central Gaza, according to AP journalists who counted the bodies at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. A man cried because of the small bundle wrapped in sheets in his arms. Two of the children were playing in the street.

“What did this girl do to you, Netanyahu? Isn’t this forbidden to you?” shouted a woman with a dead child in her arms.

The Israeli military did not respond to questions about the attack.

Israel announced the names of 12 soldiers killed in recent attacks in Gaza, bringing to 309 the number of deaths since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza last year. Hamas killed about 1,200 people in the October 7 attack and took 250 people hostage, Israeli authorities say. . Health officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Israel’s military offensive has plunged Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

Hamas Supreme Leader Ismail Haniyeh called for more pressure to open border crossings. Another border crossing, the Rafah terminal between Gaza and Egypt, has been closed since Israel entered the city. Egypt has refused to reopen the border crossing as long as Israel controls the Palestinian side.

The flow of aid into southern Gaza has slowed just as the need increased. More than 1 million Palestinians, many of whom were already displaced, fled Rafah after the invasion, who are pushing into other parts of southern and central Gaza. Most languish in tent camps, with open sewage on the streets.

From May 6 to June 6, the UN received an average of 68 trucks of aid per day. That was a decrease from the 168 per day in April and far below the 500 per day that aid organizations say is needed.

COGAT says there are no restrictions on truck access. It said that between May 2 and June 13, more than 8,600 trucks of all types, both aid and commercial, entered Gaza from all border crossings, an average of 201 per day. But much of that aid has piled up at intersections.

A COGAT spokesman, Shimon Freedman, said it was the UN’s fault that their cargo was piling up on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom. He said the agencies have “fundamental logistical problems,” especially a lack of trucks.

The UN denies such accusations. It says the fighting often makes it too dangerous for UN trucks in Gaza to travel to Kerem Shalom. It also says the pace of deliveries has slowed because the Israeli military must authorize drivers to travel to the site, a system Israel says is designed for driver safety.

The new scheme aims to reduce the need to coordinate deliveries by providing an uninterrupted 11-hour day window

Due to a lack of security, some aid trucks have been looted by crowds as they travel along Gaza’s roads. It was not immediately clear whether the military would provide security to protect trucks traveling along the highway.