Netanyahu criticises military plans to pause Gaza fighting to get in aid

Netanyahu criticises military plans to pause Gaza fighting to get in aid
Netanyahu criticises military plans to pause Gaza fighting to get in aid

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - World Food Programme personnel keep watch on a food aid distribution operation at the Zikim crossing. — Reuters pic/World Food Programme

JERUSALEM, June 17 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised plans announced by the military yesterday to hold daily tactical pauses in fighting along one of the main roads into Gaza to facilitate aid delivery into the Palestinian enclave.

The military had announced the daily pauses from 8.00am until 7.00pm in the area from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards.

“When the prime minister heard the reports of an 11-hour humanitarian pause in the morning, he turned to his military secretary and made it clear that this was unacceptable to him,” an Israeli official said.

The military clarified that normal operations would continue in Rafah, the main focus of its operation in southern Gaza, where eight soldiers were killed on Saturday.

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The reaction from Netanyahu underlined political tensions over the issue of aid coming into Gaza, where international organisations have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who leads one of the nationalist religious parties in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, denounced the idea of a tactical pause, saying whoever decided it was a “fool” who should lose their job.

Divisions between coalition, army

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The spat was the latest in a series of clashes between members of the coalition and the military over the conduct of the war, now in its ninth month.

It came a week after centrist former general Benny Gantz quit the government, accusing Netanyahu of having no effective strategy in Gaza.

The divisions were laid bare last week in a parliamentary vote on a law on conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant voting against it in defiance of party orders, saying it was insufficient for the needs of the military.

Religious parties in the coalition have strongly opposed conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, drawing widespread anger from many Israelis, which has deepened as the war has gone on.

Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, the head of the military, said on Sunday there was a “definite need” to recruit more soldiers from the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community.

Reservists under strain

Despite growing international pressure for a ceasefire, an agreement to halt the fighting still appears distant, more than eight months since the October 7 attack by Hamas fighters on Israel triggered a ground assault on the enclave by Israeli forces.

Since the attack, which killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners in Israeli communities, Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health ministry figures, and destroyed much of Gaza.

Although opinion polls suggest most Israelis support the government’s aim of destroying Hamas, there have been widespread protests attacking the government for not doing more to bring home around 120 hostages who are still in Gaza after being taken hostage on October 7.

Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials said seven Palestinians were killed in two air strikes on two houses in Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

As fighting in Gaza has continued, a lower level conflict across the Israel-Lebanon border is now threatening to spiral into a wider war as near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia have escalated.

In a further sign that fighting in Gaza could drag on, Netanyahu’s government said on Sunday it was extending until August 15 the period it would fund hotels and guest houses for residents evacuated from southern Israeli border towns. — Reuters

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