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Israel to pause daytime fighting in southern Gaza for aid efforts

Jerusalem, June 17: Israel’s military announced on Sunday that it would pause fighting throughout daytime hours along a route in southern Gaza to free up a backlog of humanitarian aid deliveries destined for desperate Palestinians enduring a humanitarian crisis sparked by the war, now in its ninth month.

The “tactical pause” announced by the military, which applies to about 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) of road in the Rafah area, falls far short of a complete cease-fire in the beleaguered territory that has been sought by the international community, including Israel’s top ally, the United States. If it holds, the limited halt in fighting could help address some of the overwhelming needs of Palestinians that have surged even more in recent weeks with Israel’s incursion into Rafah.

The army said the pause would begin at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and remain in effect until 7 p.m. (1600 GMT). It said the pauses would take place every day until further notice.

The pause is aimed at allowing aid trucks to reach the nearby Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point for incoming aid, and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway, a main north-south road, the military said. The crossing has suffered from a bottleneck since Israeli ground troops moved into Rafah in early May.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, said the route would increase the flow of aid to other parts of Gaza, including Khan Younis, Muwasi and central Gaza. Hard-hit northern Gaza, which was an early target in the war, is being served by goods entering from a crossing in the north.

The military said the pause Sunday, 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.

Following criticism over the move from ultranationalists in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, who oppose a halt in the war, the military said fighting is not being paused in the rest of southern Gaza and neither is there any change regarding the entry of aid in general.

Aid agencies, including the U.N., did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Scott Anderson, the Gaza affairs director for the U.N. agency for Palestinians, told CNN that he was hopeful the pause would “bring in much-needed aid for the population.”

The pause along the southern route comes as Israel and Hamas are weighing the latest proposal for a cease-fire, a plan that was detailed by President Joe Biden in the administration’s most concentrated diplomatic push for a halt to the fighting and the release of hostages taken by the militant group. (AP)

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