National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced on Thursday morning that Israel had committed to daily four-hour “humanitarian pauses” in its campaign against Hamas forces in Gaza, allowing civilians to evacuate. However, mere hours later, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed these claims, insisting that “the fighting will continue.”
In a statement to the White House press pool on Thursday morning, Kirby reported that daily pauses in Israel’s strikes would be implemented later that day, with the timing of the reprieves to be announced three hours prior. This measure was intended to allow civilians to evacuate southward and food and medicine to flow in, according to CBS News. President Joe Biden further explained that he had asked Israel for a pause of three days or longer in order to secure the release of Israeli and American hostages.
But mere hours after this announcement, the Israeli government refuted the Biden administration’s claims, clarifying that “the fighting continues and there will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages.”
“Israel is allowing safe transit corridors from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south, as 50,000 Gazans did just yesterday,” the statement continued. “We once again call on the civilian population in Gaza to evacuate to the south.”
However, Israel has been allowing localized pauses along the Salah a-Din Road to facilitate civilian evacuations, but the government’s terminology has called it a “humanitarian corridor.” Thus, it seems that the White House’s phrasing, which implies a break in the fighting, is what the Prime Minister has taken issue with.
According to the latest estimates, more than 200 hostages remain in Hamas custody, complicating the Israeli ground campaign.
Despite Biden’s call for the pause to rescue hostages, the administration’s official position opposes a ceasefire until Hamas is completely obliterated. “What we have said should be considered and explored are temporary localized humanitarian pauses to allow aid to get to specific populations and maybe even to help with the evacuation of people that want to get out, move more to the south,” Kirby said last week.
“We do support that. We do not support a cease-fire at this time.”