Israel has agreed to daily, four-hour humanitarian pauses to allow civilians in Gaza to flee south.
It comes as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 10,000 this week, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, and 1,400 in Israel according to the Israeli Defence Forces.
What is a humanitarian pause?
The UN defines a “humanitarian pause” as a “temporary cessation of hostilities purely for humanitarian purposes”. The focus of a pause is to provide humanitarian relief to sick and wounded civilians.
A UN spokesperson said the “humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold in Gaza” is having an “unimaginable toll on civilians”.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said Israel agreed to halt military operations while a daily four-hour pause takes place. He said it will allow “people to flee the areas of hostilities in the northern part of Gaza”.
How will it work?
These daily pauses will be announced three hours before they take effect.
During these pauses, Kirby said civilians in northern Gaza will be able to leave through two humanitarian corridors, leading them to “safer areas” in southern Gaza.
The White House has also said the pause could allow for the safe exit of hostages out of Gaza. Currently, Hamas is holding more than 240 hostages.
A humanitarian pause is different to a ceasefire, which the UN defines as a long-term end to fighting.
If a ceasefire were called, all sides (in this case, Israel and Hamas) would commit to halting violence and entering talks. These talks are sometimes held by a third party.
Hamas and Israel have reached ceasefire agreements in the past. For example, when violence broke out between Israel and Hamas and allied groups in 2021, Egypt mediated ceasefire talks between the two sides.
Calls for a ceasefire
UN chief António Guterres has been vocal in his calls for a ceasefire and the UN has called on “the international community to urgently mediate a ceasefire”.
The World Health Organisation has also called for a ceasefire to allow urgent medical relief and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
Last month, Jordan introduced a resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce”, with its ambassador saying the “urgent need for an immediate ceasefire cannot be overstated”.
China, Morocco, and Egypt were among 121 countries that voted in favour of the resolution. Israel and the U.S. voted against the motion, while Australia abstained.
Opposition to ceasefire
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said there will be no ceasefire until more than 240 hostages are released.
Two weeks ago, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told TDA “a ceasefire only benefits Hamas” as it would give the group “the time and the space to do more preparation, to conduct more attacks”.
“We don’t believe now is the time to lighten up and give [Hamas] breathing space and time,” said Kirby.
The Australia Government has repeatedly pushed for a humanitarian pause in Gaza. Australia hasn’t formally called for a ceasefire.
In calling for a pause, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said: “Suffering in Gaza is widespread. Food, water, medicine, fuel and other essential assistance must reach people in desperate need”.