Israel to begin daily four-hour 'pauses' in Gaza

US still does not endorse a ceasefire, arguing it would allow Hamas time to regroup

People search through the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip. Getty Images
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Israel will begin to enact four-hour pauses in areas of northern Gaza on a daily basis starting on Thursday, the White House said, calling them “significant first steps” in the war, now in its second month.

The pauses will be announced three hours beforehand, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“We've been told by the Israelis that there will be no military operations in these areas over the duration of the pause and that this process is starting today,” he told journalists on a call.

“We think these are significant first steps and obviously we want to see them continued for as long as they are needed.”

Mr Kirby also said the Israelis would open a second humanitarian corridor along the main coastal road in Gaza to allow people to flee to the southern part of the territory.

The development follows US discussions in recent days with Israeli counterparts, including the latest call that President Joe Biden held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

The pauses will allow the movement of humanitarian assistance to those in need, get people out of harm's way and create a way to bring hostages out, Mr Kirby said.

He added that fewer than 10 Americans are believed to be among the 239 hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza.

The US still does not endorse a ceasefire, arguing it would allow Hamas time to regroup.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said before the announcement of the pauses that there was "no possibility" for a ceasefire.

Mr Kirby added that a ceasefire would “legitimise” the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which killed 1,400 people.

Israel responded to the attack by declaring war on Hamas and bombarding the coastal enclave with strikes by air, land and sea.

At least 10,800 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and the enclave's 2.3 million residents have been facing severe shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel.

The US maintains that Israel has a right to defend itself and has pledged more military aid to help Israel eradicate Hamas.

But the high death toll and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza have raised concerns about breaches in international law and drawn questions about the proportionality of Israel's response.

Mr Kirby said the US wants to see at least 150 lorries carrying aid enter the Gaza Strip each day. He said 106 lorries had made it through on Wednesday.

“We are aware that there will be difficulties and we all need to be prepared for the fact that there's going to be days where we don't make that goal,” he said.

Updated: November 10, 2023, 6:33 AM