Far-right ministers blast ‘delusional’ daily pauses in fighting to secure Gaza aid

Netanyahu criticizes move, but IDF says it’s in line with his instructions; Ben Gvir claims decision contrary to cabinet policy; Smotrich says aid mostly ends up in Hamas’s hands

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (R) and Bezalel Smotrich (L) at the 'victory conference' at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
File: Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (R) and Bezalel Smotrich (L) at the 'victory conference' at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Far-right ministers on Sunday decried a decision by the military to implement a daily pause in military activity along a road in the southern Gaza Strip to enable aid deliveries, describing the measure as foolish and “delusional.”

Although the Israel Defense Forces has frequently announced “tactical pauses” since October 7 for several hours in various neighborhoods across the Strip for Palestinians to receive and distribute aid, the latest move marked a more significant daily halt in military activity, for more hours than usual and across a wider area.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a statement that whoever decided on such a policy is a “fool who should not remain in his position.”

“Unfortunately, this move was not brought before the cabinet and is contrary to its decisions. It’s time to get out of the [outdated pre-October 7 security] concept and stop the crazy and delusional approach that only brings us more dead and fallen,” the statement read.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attacked the IDF’s “delusional announcement,” complaining that “the ‘humanitarian aid’ that continues to reach Hamas keeps it in power and may pour the achievements of the war down the drain.

“The manner in which the humanitarian effort in the Gaza Strip is being managed, in the framework of which aid goes largely to Hamas and helps it to retain civilian control of the Strip in direct contradiction to the goals of the war, has been bad throughout the last few months,” he claimed, adding that he had repeatedly warned that “this is one of the reasons for the continuation of the war and the resounding strategic failure” of the war effort.

A bundle of humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip with the logo of World Central Kitchen (WCK) on a truck at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in southern Israel, on May 30, 2024 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

“The [IDF] chief of staff and the defense minister have for six months been firmly refusing the only path to victory, which is the occupation of the Strip and the establishment of a temporary military government there until the complete destruction of Hamas, and unfortunately Prime Minister Netanyahu is either unwilling or unable to force this on them,” he said.

“The problem is that the General Staff is completely disconnected from the existence of the forces in the field [if] it is able to issue such a message on a day when we are burying 11 of our best soldiers,” he added.

The ministers’ comments came after the IDF stated that “a local, tactical pause of military activity for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then further north.”

The military said in a separate, follow-up statement that it “clarifies that there is no suspension of fighting in the southern Gaza Strip and the fighting in Rafah continues.”

Ben Gvir, a member of the security cabinet but not the smaller war cabinet, has grumbled throughout the war about being left out of decision-making forums by the prime minister. Smotrich, who likewise is a member of the security cabinet but not the smaller forum, has been involved in an ongoing feud with the defense establishment, clashing over budgets and arguing against the wartime appointment of senior officers.

Far-right ministers and activists have repeatedly slammed and attempted to interrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Strip for as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages it took during the October 7 massacre.

Upon hearing the military’s initial announcement on the measure, Netanyahu contacted his military secretary and “made it clear that this is not acceptable to him,” a diplomatic source said.

“After an inquiry, the prime minister was informed that there was no change in IDF policy and that the fighting in Rafah continues as planned,” the source added.

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip wait near the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side on May 26, 2024. (AFP)

The IDF said later in the day that its decision was in line with instructions by Netanyahu to increase the flow of aid into the Strip by allowing safe passage for convoys.

After Hamas’s shock October 7 assault on the Gaza border communities, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 251 abducted, Israel halted the transfer of almost all aid shipments into the Gaza Strip, easing the blockade gradually over the following months.

As the humanitarian situation in the Strip deteriorated, Israel faced mounting international pressure to accelerate the transfer of supplies into the embattled enclave, where according to the United Nations, hunger conditions have reached famine levels. Aid organizations said that the northern Gaza Strip, where Israel’s ground offensive began, is especially difficult to reach.

Emanuel Fabian and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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