Israel has agreed to implement daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in its assault against Hamas terrorists in northern Gaza in order to allow ordinary Palestinians to flee the combat zone, the White House said Thursday.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call that the Jewish state will announce the safe windows at least three hours in advance.
“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.
“We believe these pauses are a step in the right direction, particularly to help ensure that civilians have an opportunity to reach safer areas away from the act of fighting.”
Israel’s public broadcaster reported, citing a defense official, that the country’s forces were already executing “tactical pauses” to allow civilians to move south from Gaza City.
The White House has repeatedly insisted that the pauses are different from the cease-fire called for by pro-Hamas activists around the world since the Israel Defense Forces began retaliating after the deadly Oct. 7 attack against southern Israel.
Kirby added that the ultimate goal of the pauses would be to find a way to free “all 239 hostages” who were taken by Hamas. That number is believed to include a small number of Americans, though the Biden administration has refused to give a precise figure.
President Biden told reporters on the South Lawn that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “a pause longer than three days” when the two leaders spoke by phone on Monday.
When asked if he was frustrated with Netanyahu’s resistance to implementing pauses, Biden admitted that “it’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”
The commander-in-chief added that there was still “no possibility” of a general ceasefire in the month-long conflict.