After objecting, PM is told move does not change IDF policy

IDF announces daily pause in fighting along key south Gaza road to increase aid flow

Military stresses operations against Hamas in Rafah continue despite 11-hour pause each day on route leading from Kerem Shalom to Khan Younis

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

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)
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)

The Israeli military announced Sunday it had begun to implement a daily “tactical pause of military activity” along a key road in the southern Gaza Strip to enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to Palestinians.

The pause was to take place between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day along a road that leads from the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel to the Salah a-Din road on the eastern outskirts of Rafah, and then northward toward the Khan Younis area, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“This is an additional step in the humanitarian aid efforts that have been conducted by the IDF and COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) since the beginning of the war,” the military said in a statement.

The IDF said the pause was implemented for the first time on Saturday.

Amid the war against Hamas in Gaza, the IDF has frequently announced “tactical pauses” for several hours in various neighborhoods across the Strip for Palestinians to receive and distribute aid.

However, the latest announcement marked a more significant pause in military activity, for more hours than usual and across a wider area.

A graphic released by the IDF showing the aid route that will see humanitarian pauses on June 16, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

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

“Also, there is no change in the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip. The route used to deliver the goods will be open during the day in coordination with international organizations, for the transportation of humanitarian aid only,” the IDF added.

Upon hearing the military’s initial announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin 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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. (Tomer Appelbaum/POOL/Flash90)

Meanwhile, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said that whoever decided on such a policy is a “fool who should not continue to be 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,” he said in a statement.

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

Displaced Palestinians walk past destroyed buildings in Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 12, 2024. (Eyad Baba/AFP)

Currently, three crossings are actively being used to transfer humanitarian aid from Israel to Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip: Western Erez and Eastern Erez, opened earlier last month, and Gate 96, the military’s entrance to central Gaza’s Netzarim Corridor, used for the first time for aid deliveries in March.

In southern Gaza, the Kerem Shalom Crossing is being used for humanitarian aid deliveries, while the Nitzana Crossing with Egypt is being used to inspect some of the trucks.

The Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, the Strip’s main entrance for humanitarian aid since the war began, has been closed since May 7 after the Israeli military took over the Gazan side of the crossing and Egypt announced its refusal to let aid pass through as long as Palestinians weren’t in charge of it.

IDF troops on the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The closure of the Rafah crossing, where the IDF has found several Hamas tunnels and other terror infrastructure, makes the additional openings into Gaza critical.

Besides land crossings, humanitarian aid has also been delivered by various nations via airdrops, and the United States has been bringing in supplies via a floating pier on the coast of central Gaza, although it has seen several setbacks.

The IDF has been battling Hamas in Rafah since last month, taking control of the entire Egypt-Gaza border area, and carrying out operations in several of the city’s neighborhoods. On Saturday, eight soldiers were killed in Rafah’s northwestern Tel Sultan neighborhood when their armored vehicle was attacked by an explosive device or an anti-tank missile.

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