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Israel's plan for tactical aid pause raises questions and deepens divisions. Here's what we know

Israel's plan for tactical aid pause raises questions and deepens divisions.  Here's what we know
Israel's plan for tactical aid pause raises questions and deepens divisions.  Here's what we know


Editors Note: A version of this story appears on CNN. Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a thrice-weekly look inside the region's biggest stories.Register here.


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced a tactical pause in military activities along a route in southern Gaza, which is designated for the delivery of humanitarian aid every day for 11 hours.

The announcement comes as the homeless population of more than 2 million face humanitarian conditions that the United Nations has described as undescribeable.

The war, which began on October 7 after a Hamas attack on Israel that killed around 1,200 people and took 250 hostages, is now in its ninth month with no indication of a ceasefire-hostage deal in the near future. The fighting has killed more than 37,000 people so far in Gaza, according to the enclave's health ministry. On Saturday, eight Israeli soldiers were killed in southern Gaza in one of the deadliest incidents since the start of the war. More than 300 IDF soldiers have died to date.

The pause, which the IDF announced on Sunday but COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for approving aid to Gaza, said took effect on Saturday, raised questions about what it means for the conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Human rights groups have described health concerns beyond crisis levels for Palestinians in the enclave, with over 75% of the population displaced, according to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA). The Israeli military campaign has pulverized neighborhoods, damaged health infrastructure, and depleted supplies of food, water, and fuel.

The announcement also appears to have deepened existing political divisions in the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unhappy when he first heard about it, according to one official.

Here's what we know.

The IDF announced that a local, tactical pause in military activity for humanitarian purposes will take place daily from 08:00 to 19:00 local time until further notice.

The pause began on Saturday, the IDF said, and is intended to allow trucks to move from the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the main entry point for aid entering southern Gaza, to Salah al-Din Road and north.

The IDF has designated a specific route for aid trucks, which starts from Kerem Shalom in the Al Bayuk neighborhood and the European Hospital in Khan Younis.

The route will be run in coordination with international organizations, the IDF said, as part of efforts to increase aid volumes reaching Gaza.

Shortly after announcing the move, the IDF said fighting in Rafah continues, adding that there is no change in the country's aid policy in the region.

In response to a question from CNN's Paula Hancocks during an international media conference in Kerem Shalom on Monday, Israeli army spokesman Adm. Daniel Hagari said that sometimes when you say a tactical pause, people might think they are stopping the fighting in Gaza.

We should have clarified better that we are fighting in Gaza, that we are fighting in Rafah, and we created this safe passage, at those hours, to make sure that the delivery (of aid) is ongoing, Hagar said.

The IDF said the humanitarian pause is meant to help the UN collect and distribute aid at its crossings, where Israel has said aid is piling up.

COGAT said on Sunday that there are 1,000 trucks of humanitarian aid on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing waiting to be collected and distributed.

Georgios Petropoulos, head of the UN humanitarian affairs office (UNOCHA) in Gaza, told CNN on Monday that the pause was not new on the ground and that there are a number of issues preventing aid workers from reaching parts of Palestinian enclave.

These include fighting between Israel and Hamas, but also the danger that exists on travel routes as many parts of Gaza struggle with a state of lawlessness that lacks any police or rule of law, Petropoulos said.

The pause is just a repackaging of an announcement that reflects what we've been doing here in Gaza for over a week, Petropoulos told CNN, adding that that route was being used by the UN to move goods for days.

A truck carrying aid for delivery to Gaza passes through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel on Monday.

When roads are dangerous, emergency trucks cannot travel to them, he said. The war between Hamas and Israel is not the only issue we have on the ground.

It is unclear how effective the pause will be, as the IDF has previously designated other routes as safe routes for aid, only for aid convoys to be hit. In April, the deadly Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers from the non-profit World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza struck what the team said was a deconfliction zone in coordination with the Israeli military.

Aid groups say no change has yet been seen on the ground.

We haven't seen any improvement so far, said Scott Anderson, UNRWA's director of affairs in Gaza, noting that the law and order environment in Gaza is not allowing for the efficient delivery of aid.

The spokesman for the UN Children's Fund, James Elder, warned that the pause cannot replace a ceasefire. I just don't know unfortunately (how long the pause will last), this is a question for the occupying power, for Israel and its army.

The more than eight-month humanitarian crisis in Gaza is spiraling. Thousands have died in the besieged enclave, according to the health ministry there, and more than half the population has been internally displaced.

Gazans are facing desperate levels of hunger, with more than 50,000 children in need of treatment for acute malnutrition, UNRWA said. Hospitals are in ruins, medical supplies are scarce and humanitarian access remains limited, the UN agency added.

According to UNRWA data, 60 trucks entered Gaza on June 12, the latest batch of vehicles the UN agency has recorded.

The dead and wounded, including children, are brought to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital after Israeli attacks on the Bureij refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on Sunday.

Land crossings, which aid groups say are the most effective way to get aid into Gaza, remain limited. Of the five land crossings, only two have been open for relief trucks recently. These are the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom and western Erez crossings.

A humanitarian pier built by the US military off the coast of Gaza has also been closed due to heavy seas, preventing the delivery of naval aid.

The Government Media Office (GMO) in Gaza has denied that a tactical pause is now in effect in the southern Gaza Strip.

Talk of a tactical cessation of hostilities is an Israeli lie, the WMO said in a statement on Sunday. We still demand the opening of the Rafah crossing to meet the needs of the population, especially in the northern Gaza Strip.

It is unclear who made the decision for the pause, as several senior Israeli officials appeared to have been kept in the dark before the announcement. This includes the prime minister, who initially rejected the pause.

According to an Israeli official, Netanyahu raised the question of who ordered it and was unhappy when he first heard about it.

The prime minister then contacted his military secretary and said the idea was unacceptable until he was assured that the fighting in Rafah would continue, the official said, speaking to CNN on Sunday and requesting anonymity.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also condemned the pause. Anyone who decided on a tactical pause for the purpose of a humanitarian transition, especially at a time when the best of our soldiers are falling in battle, is evil and stupid who should not continue to be in his position, he said.

Israel's Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives in Jerusalem's Old City during the annual Jerusalem Day march in Jerusalem on June 5.

These disagreements, which erupt openly in statements and in the Israeli media, have only deepened the divisions in the country's government.

An IDF spokesman said Monday that the pause had been approved by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. He said that this type of decision would first be made by COGAT and Southern Command, and then passed up the chain of command for approval, depending on the situation.

Asked if this type of decision would need approval from the Israeli government or cabinet, the spokesman said that this type of decision does not necessarily need to be approved by the cabinet and it was approved by the defense minister.

In an earlier statement on Monday, the IDF had said the decision was made by the military, not the Israeli government.

The announcement of the pause followed requests from the IDF's political echelon in recent weeks to allow aid to flow in and announce this to the world, the military said in a statement to CNN.

The pause is meant to meet the demands of the International Court of Justice regarding aid shipments to Gaza before a court hearing by the end of June, he added.

The pause is meant for a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Israel will have to prove that it did not violate the order issued in connection with the fighting in Rafah, which prevented a court order to stop the war, the IDF. said.

The ICJ is investigating a case brought by Pretoria against Israel, in which South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians during the war. In May, it ordered Israel to immediately halt its controversial military operation in Rafah, saying the court considers the humanitarian situation in the southern city classified as catastrophic. Israeli officials condemned the ICJ decision.




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