- Recent Developments:
- The Israeli prime minister says there will be pauses here or there that will last a few hours
- Fighting breaks out with no sign of peace
- Israel says Hamas breached security quarter
GAZA/WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Israel has agreed to halt military operations in parts of northern Gaza for four hours a day, but the White House said on Thursday there were no signs of casualties. Thousands and thousands of coastal habitats were littered.
The pauses, which will allow people to escape through two humanitarian corridors and can be used to free hostages, are significant first steps, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested the breaks would be scattered, and there was no official confirmation of a plan for more frequent breaks.
Asked if there would be a “pause” in the fighting, Netanyahu said on Fox News Channel: “No. The fighting continues against Hamas, the enemy of Hamas, terrorists, but in certain places, for a few hours here or a few hours there, we want civilians to move safely from the fighting zone, and we’re doing that.”
On the ground in northern Gaza, there is not a dull note in the fighting. Israeli forces have encircled Gaza City and its tanks are advancing into the city center as they hunt down Hamas militants. Each side claimed heavy casualties on the other in intense street fighting.
Israeli officials spoke generally of measures that appeared similar to arrangements already in place. In recent days, Israel has allowed civilians to safely travel three or four hours south of the main Gaza Strip each day. Comments from the White House suggested that a second route would be opened.
“We are taking localized and precise measures to allow Palestinian civilians to leave Gaza City to the south, so that we do not harm them. These things do not take away from the fighting,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
At an evening news conference, the chief Israeli military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said troops had breached what he described as a “Hamas security quarter” in northern Gaza, which includes command centers, munitions manufacturing plants and other positions.
“We have fought and killed more than 50 terrorists. We have recovered many weapons. We have recovered a lot of intelligence which we will take and analyse. We continue to clear this area and other areas,” Hagari said.
The UN says suspensions must be coordinated
UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said any plan for a break in the fighting would have to be coordinated with the United Nations “especially on the issue of time and place.”
“And obviously, if it is to be done safely for humanitarian purposes, it has to be agreed with all parties to the conflict to be genuinely effective,” he said.
Israel unleashed its assault on Gaza in retaliation for a cross-border Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7, in which gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli calculations. Israel says it has lost 33 soldiers in Gaza.
Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, 40% of them children, in airstrikes and artillery strikes. A humanitarian disaster has unfolded as basic supplies run out and injured people overwhelm the fragile medical system.
Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, told a congressional committee on Wednesday that Gaza deaths “may be higher than is being quoted. We will know only after the guns fall silent.”
Health officials and aid organizations in Gaza say the death toll could rise as rescuers pull more bodies from the rubble of damaged buildings.
Earlier a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the heads of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence met with the Qatari prime minister in Doha on Thursday to discuss the parameters of a deal to release the hostages and a pause in the Hamas-Israel conflict. .
In northern Gaza, Israeli forces are closing in on two major hospitals where civilians have taken refuge, flocking to Al Shifa Hospital and Al-Quds Hospital amid ground battles and Israeli airstrikes.
Israel, which has vowed to eliminate Hamas, says the group uses Al Shifa to cover command posts and entry points into an extensive network of tunnels under Gaza, which Hamas and the hospital deny.
Israel’s progress has raised questions about what its plans will be when it reaches the hospital. While it has used explosives to destroy Hamas tunnels elsewhere, international laws require medical facilities and shelter for displaced people there.
Terrible scenes for those fleeing
In Paris, officials from about 80 countries and organizations gathered to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza and find ways to help injured civilians in the second month of the siege.
“Without a cease-fire, lifting of the blockade and indiscriminate bombing and war, the bleeding of human life will continue,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Israel and its main backer, the United States, say a full ceasefire would benefit Hamas, with Israel’s defense minister reiterating on Thursday that there would be no ceasefire.
Civilians fleeing from northern to southern Gaza on Thursday told of a harrowing journey. “We saw mutilated bodies, people from civilian cars, civilians like us, not military cars or protesters,” Khalid Abu Issa said after traveling south in Wadi Gaza with his family.
Tensions have also risen along other fault lines. The Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah said it had fired missiles at Israel along the border, prompting Israel’s military to respond with artillery fire.
An unidentified drone crashed into a civilian building in the southern Israeli city of Eilat on Thursday, causing minor damage, Israel’s military said, and Yemen’s Houthi movement said it fired ballistic missiles toward the Red Sea port city.
10 Palestinians were killed in an attack by Israeli forces on the city of Jenin and a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. The Israeli military said it was carrying out counter-terrorist strikes.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Mytal Angel in Gaza, Emily Rose and Mayan Lubel in Jerusalem, Rami Amiche in Tel Aviv, Matt Spetalnik and Humera Pamuk in Washington and other Reuters bureaus; By Angus MacSwan, Andrew Heavens and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Peter Graff, Nick MacPhee and Howard Koller
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