Military 'pause' in Gaza inflames divisions in Israeli government

PHOTO: Getty Images

When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire? According to the Israeli army, when it comes to a "local, tactical pause in military activities for humanitarian purposes."

Israel's humanitarian aid coordinator for Gaza detailed a scheduled daily pause in fighting between 08:00 and 19:00 local time along the key route running north of the Kerem Shalom crossing, where aid is waiting to be delivered. transmits The BBC. 

The announcement almost immediately sparked a furious political attack from far-right government ministers – and a swift defense from the Israeli army, insisting it did not signal an end to fighting in southern Gaza or any change in the flow of humanitarian aid.

The fact that the announcement was so explosive underscores the increasingly precarious situation of the Israeli prime minister, caught between the cost of his vague and so far elusive military goals of dismantling Hamas and returning the hostages home, and the political allies he relies on to stay in power.

The agencies will still need to coordinate their movements with the Israeli army, and World Food Program Gaza director Matt Hollingworth said the test will be whether that coordination is quick enough. But he also said coordination was only part of the hurdles agencies faced in delivering aid to Gaza.

Sunday's announcement "doesn't solve the issue of insecurity and criminality," he said. "And this is the most dangerous area of ​​the Gaza Strip right now for aid to move."

Aid agencies reported over the weekend that the continuation of the war is fueling acute malnutrition in parts of Gaza.

Israel is under pressure – from NGOs, allies and its High Court – to get more aid to Gaza. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces fierce opposition from two far-right cabinet colleagues who say they will topple his government if he agrees to end the war, and who see the aid delivery as delaying an Israeli victory. They reacted furiously to today's announcement, with Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir describing "the one who made this decision" as "evil" and a "fool".

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said humanitarian aid had helped keep Hamas in power and risked putting "the achievements of the war in the water".
Both have threatened to topple Mr. Netanyahu's coalition government if he ends the war, as America wants.

But pressure over the cost of that war is also mounting at home. Israel's parallel conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon has escalated in recent days, underscoring the wider risks of a prolonged war.

Last night, large crowds protested in Tel Aviv, calling on Netanyahu to end the conflict in Gaza and sign an agreement to return 120 Israeli hostages home.

In Israel, thousands of people joined the protest calling on the Israeli military cabinet to bring the hostages home/BBC

And the funerals of eleven soldiers killed in Gaza over the weekend are again bringing into focus questions about how the Israeli prime minister's stated military goals can be achieved.

Netanyahu vowed "total victory" against Hamas. He described the ongoing operation in Rafah as an attack on the group's last remaining battalions in Gaza – "necessary to destroy".

But it is clear that even the dismantling of Hamas as a structured military organization does not mean a complete end to the conflict. Israeli forces still face guerrilla operations by Hamas fighters in areas they previously cleared. For Netanyahu, the end of the war is likely to bring a new battle for his own political survival. The divisions revealed today between his army and his allies highlight the tensions between rhetoric and reality in this war.
And the tensions Netanyahu faces in their intertwining: stuck between the promise of "total victory" and the prospect of "perpetual war."


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