WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in its assault on Hamas in northern Gaza starting on Thursday, as the Biden administration said it has secured a second pathway for civilians to flee fighting.
President Joe Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a Monday call. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the first humanitarian pause would be announced Thursday and that the Israelis had committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance. Israel, he said, also was opening a second corridor for civilians to flee the areas that are the current focus of its military campaign against Hamas, with a coastal road joining the territory’s main north-south highway.
Biden also told reporters that he had asked the Israelis for a “pause longer than three days” during negotiations over the release of some hostages held by Hamas, though he said there was “no possibility” of a general cease-fire. Asked if he was frustrated by Netanyahu over the delays instituting humanitarian pauses, Biden said, “It’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”
Kirby told reporters Thursday that pauses could be useful to “getting all 239 hostages back with their families to include the less than 10 Americans that we know are being held. So if we can get all the hostages out, that’s a nice finite goal.”
“Humanitarian pauses can be useful in the transfer process,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had warned Israel last week that it risked destroying an eventual possibility for peace unless it acted swiftly to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza for Palestinian civilians as it intensifies its war against Hamas.
In a blunt call for Israel to pause military operations in the territory to allow for the immediate and increased delivery of assistance, Blinken said the situation would drive Palestinians toward further radicalism and effectively end prospects for any eventual resumption of peace talks to end the conflict.
French President Emmanuel Macron had opened a Gaza aid conference on Thursday with an appeal for Israel to protect civilians, saying that “all lives have equal worth” and that fighting terrorism “can never be carried out without rules.”