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Israel announces ‘tactical pause’ | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

JERUSALEM – The Israeli army announced Sunday it would pause daytime fighting along a route in southern Gaza to address a backlog in the delivery of humanitarian aid to desperate Palestinians facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the war, which now entering the ninth month.

The ‘tactical pause’, which applies to about 12 km of road in the Rafah area, falls far short of a full ceasefire in the area where the international community, including Israel’s main ally the United States, is seeking has strived for. It could help meet some of the Palestinians’ overwhelming needs, which have increased sharply in recent weeks following the Israeli incursion into Rafah.

The military said the daily break would begin at 8 a.m. and last until 7 p.m. and continue until further notice. Following criticism of the action by ultranationalists in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, who oppose a halt to the war, the army said fighting in the rest of southern Gaza will not be suspended and that there is no change regarding the access to help in general.

The pause is intended to allow aid trucks to reach the nearby Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main access point for aid, and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway, a major north-south road, the military said. The border crossing has been a chokepoint 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 entering through a border crossing in the north.

The military said the pause, which begins when Muslims begin celebrating the main holiday of Eid Al-Adha, came after talks with the United Nations and international aid agencies.

A U.N. humanitarian 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 for further concrete measures from Israel, including smoother operations at checkpoints and the regular supply of needed fuel.

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

The fighting continues. Israel on Sunday announced the names of eleven soldiers killed in recent attacks in Gaza. That brings to 308 the number of soldiers killed since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza last year. Hamas killed 1,200 people in the Oct. 7 attack and took 250 hostage, Israeli authorities say. Health officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Israel’s military offensive against Hamas 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 on Sunday 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 Rafah crossing as long as Israel controls the Palestinian side in Gaza.

The flow of aid into southern Gaza has slowed just as the need increased. More than 1 million Palestinians, many of whom had already been displaced, fled Rafah after the invasion and crowded 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 trucks per day in April and far below the 500 trucks per day that aid organizations say are 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 kinds, both aid and commercial, entered Gaza through 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 that they have not solved,” mainly 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.

Information for this article was contributed by Jack Jeffery of The Associated Press.

photo CORRECTS LOCATION TO KHAN YOUNIS – Palestinians collect food aid ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
photo CORRECTED LOCATION TO KHAN YOUNIS – Palestinian children collect food aid ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
photo CORRECTS LOCATION TO KHAN YOUNIS – Palestinian men collect food aid ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
photo CORRECTS LOCATION TO KHAN YOUNIS – Palestinians collect food aid ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
photo CORRECTS LOCATION TO KHAN YOUNIS – A Palestinian girl reacts as she collects food aid ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)