The White House announced on Thursday that Israel has agreed to institute daily four-hour “humanitarian pauses” in the coming days during its ongoing military campaign against Hamas, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinian residents of Gaza.
President Joe Biden said there is “no possibility” for a formal ceasefire, adding he has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to no avail, for a pause that would last longer than three days to allow for negotiations to end hostilities and free hostages held by Hamas.
The first pause will be announced later on Thursday. Subsequent pauses will be announced each day, at least three hours before they’re set to begin, White House officials said. Israel will also open a second corridor for Palestinians to use in order to flee the area during these pauses.
“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,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.
According to Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, who is reporting in Washington D.C. about these latest developments, the pauses “will allow for the potential release of captives that Hamas is currently holding … and for medicine and food to get in and for those living inside Gaza who have dual nationality to get out.”
Since October 7, weeks of airstrikes by the Israeli military, followed by a ground assault in Gaza, have resulted in more than 10,800 Palestinian deaths, including more than 4,100 children.
Abdelhamid Siyam, a Middle East expert at Rutgers University, criticized the idea of limited pauses as being inadequate to address the carnage and humanitarian crisis that is happening in the region.
“Pauses are not a solution. … [What’s needed is a] ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can come in uninterrupted, that foreigners can leave the country, and maybe negotiations can take place,” Siyam said to Al Jazeera.
If this is only a pause to allow people to move from the north to south, it did not work in the past, it will not work in the future. In four hours, people cannot come. They don’t have cars, they don’t have fuel. It’s not going to work.
Before Thursday’s announcement from the White House, other experts and commentators derided the idea of a pause in favor of an actual ceasefire in Gaza.
“There is something so uniquely evil about ‘a humanitarian pause.’ It’s an Orwellian demand to continue taking human life indiscriminately with moments of reprieve, so that the kill have some food, water and bandages before they are targeted again,” media critic Sana Saeed said on social media. “It is torture before the kill.”
Doctors Without Borders executive director Jennifer Tierney, discussing the idea of a pause in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, expressed similar sentiments.
“We are doctors in our nature. And what you are asking us to do with a humanitarian pause is to bring in the equipment necessary to stitch people up and repair them, and then to start the bombing again and for us to then fix them,” Tierney said. “That is not enough. We need a ceasefire.”
Kelly Hayes, host of Truthout’s podcast “Movement Memos” and co-author of the book “Let This Radicalize You,” responded to the announcement from the White House with indignation, noting that it was essentially a promise from Israel that was devoid of any true meaning.
“We’ve been saying for weeks that the ‘humanitarian pause’ argument was a meaningless rhetorical tactic,” Hayes said on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “Now the pauses are a 4 hour window each day — something a genocidal country might do anyway, just to regroup or assess conditions.”
“Rage against these obfuscations of genocide,” Hayes added.
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