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HomeWorldWhite House: Israel Will Start Pausing in Northern Gaza for Four Hours

White House: Israel Will Start Pausing in Northern Gaza for Four Hours

Marwan hamouuGAZA

Latest developments:

  • Israeli forces battle Hamas fighters in Gaza City.
  • IDF extended for an extra hour Wednesday its evacuation corridor for Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, as U.N. says 50,000 flee south.
  • The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the death toll from Israeli attacks has surpassed 10,500.
  • G7 backs Israel’s right to self-defense, while calling for pauses in fighting to allow humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians.

 

The White House says Israel will start to implement four-hour pauses in its military operation against Hamas in areas of northern Gaza each day, starting Thursday.

The announcement by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby came as Israeli forces battled Hamas militants in Gaza City and more Palestinian civilians fled the area.

The pauses would give Palestinians time to escape using two humanitarian passages and were significant inroads to reducing the toll of war, 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,” Kirby said, adding that the idea for pauses came up in discussions between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In addition to the ground fighting in the largest city in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have also been hitting the area with airstrikes.

The fighting has prompted massive displacement, with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs saying 50,000 people fled Wednesday for the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

That figure was by far the highest this week. The U.N. said a total of 72,000 people had evacuated northern Gaza since Sunday.

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Israel began opening an evacuation corridor Sunday along the main road connecting the north and south of Gaza. It remains open for four hours daily to allow civilians to leave the epicenter of fighting. The IDF said Wednesday it extended the corridor for an additional hour because so many people were using it.

The U.N. and other aid groups are providing them with water and high energy biscuits just south of the line separating north and south.

Conditions have been growing more dire in the north, which has been out of reach of aid deliveries for the past week. The U.N. said that as of Tuesday, no bakeries were operating there because of a lack of fuel, water, wheat flour and damage to their premises.

Israel launched its offensive in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Hamas also took about 240 people hostage. The U.S., U.K., EU and other countries in the West have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israeli attacks have killed more than 10,500 people, two-thirds of them women and children. There is no way to independently verify those numbers, though the U.N. says the ministry’s numbers have been reliable in the past.

Dire conditions

The U.N. has warned of overcrowding in southern Gaza with shelters “unable to accommodate new arrivals.” About two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are displaced, according to the U.N. At one shelter in Khan Younis housing 22,000 displaced Palestinians, the U.N. says at least 600 people are sharing a single toilet.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the risk is growing in Gaza for the rapid spread of infectious diseases, as bodies decompose under building rubble and health, water and sanitation systems have been severely disrupted. Cases of diarrhea in small children have skyrocketed, scabies, lice, skin and upper respiratory infections also have been on the rise.

The WHO and the U.N. agency that assists Palestinians, UNRWA, said Wednesday they facilitated the delivery of emergency medical supplies to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, despite “huge risks to our staff and health partners” because of the bombing. It is only the second delivery of supplies to the hospital since the war began, and the agencies said it is insufficient to meet the immense need. Israel accuses Hamas of concealing its command center under al-Shifa.

The U.N. said the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was not open Wednesday, a day after 600 foreign and dual nationals were able to leave Gaza.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Volker Türk was at the Rafah crossing Wednesday, which he called “the gates to a living nightmare.”

“The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians,” he said. “The massive bombardments by Israel have killed, maimed and injured in particular women and children.”

He also condemned as atrocities the actions of Hamas on Oct. 7, saying their terror attack and the holding of hostages are also war crimes.

“We have fallen off a precipice. This cannot continue,” he said, appealing for a humanitarian cease-fire.

Source: VOA News

VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed reporting for this report. Some information for this article was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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