Israel-Gaza war: Israeli military announces daily ‘tactical pauses’ in Gaza to allow aid in

Eleven-hour window to allow in aid via Kerem Shalom crossing will take place every day until further notice, military says

Aid trucks wait at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. Photograph: Menahem KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

The Israeli military said on Sunday it would hold daily tactical pauses in military activity in parts of southern Gaza to allow more aid to flow into the enclave, where international aid organisations have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis.

The pause will begin at 8am and remain in effect until 7pm local time along the road from the southern city of Rafah or Kerem Shalom crossing in the south to the outskirts of Khan Younis, according to a statement.

The Israel army said the pauses will be in effect until further notice and will allow aid trucks to reach the Kerem Shalom crossing. The move is being co-ordinated with the UN and international aid agencies, it said.

The military said the suspension, which begins as Muslims in Gaza and elsewhere start marking the major Eid Al-Adha holiday, came after discussions with the United Nations and international aid agencies.

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Following criticism over the move from ultranationalists in Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government who oppose a halt in the war, the military said fighting is not being paused in the rest of southern Gaza, nor is there any change regarding the entry of aid in general.

The Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point for incoming aid, has suffered from a bottleneck since Israeli ground troops moved into Rafah in early May.

Israel’s eight-month military offensive against the Hamas militant group has plunged Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, with the UN reporting widespread hunger and hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine. The international community has urged Israel to do more to ease the situation.

From May 6th until June 6th, the UN received an average of 68 trucks of aid a day, according to figures from the UN humanitarian office, known as OCHA. That was down from 168 a day in April and far below the 500 trucks a day that aid groups say are needed.

The flow of aid in southern Gaza declined just as the humanitarian need grew. More than one million Palestinians, many of whom had already been displaced, fled Rafah after the invasion, crowding into other parts of southern and central Gaza.

Most now languish in ramshackle tent camps, using trenches as latrines, with open sewage in the streets.

Cogat, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, says there are no restrictions on the entry of trucks. It says more than 8,600 trucks of all kinds, both aid and commercial, entered Gaza from all crossings from May 2nd to June 13th, an average of 201 a day. But much of that aid has piled up at the crossings and not reached its final destination.

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A spokesman for Cogat said it was the UN’s fault that its cargos stacked up on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom. He said the agencies have “fundamental logistical problems that they have not fixed”, especially a lack of trucks.

The UN denies such allegations. It says the fighting between Israel and Hamas often makes it too dangerous for UN trucks inside Gaza to travel to Kerem Shalom, which is right next to Israel’s border.

It also says the pace of deliveries has been slowed because the Israeli military must authorise drivers to travel to the site, a system Israel says was designed for the drivers’ safety. Due to a lack of security, aid trucks in some cases have also been looted by crowds as they moved along Gaza’s roads.

The new arrangement aims to reduce the need for co-ordinating deliveries by providing an 11-hour uninterrupted window each day for trucks to move in and out of the crossing.

It was not immediately clear whether the army would provide security to protect the aid trucks as they move along the highway. – Agencies