In response to a pressing request from Joe Biden, Benjamin Netanyahu made an apparent concession on the humanitarian issue in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Prime Minister plays with words. In order to appease Joe Biden, he accepted on Thursday a limited pause in fighting, both in terms of time and scale, for humanitarian reasons. But this gesture falls well short of the three days of cessation of hostilities recommended by the American president. On paper, the White House announced Thursday that the Israeli army had agreed to freeze its attacks and bombings every day for four hours starting Thursday in order to allow the exodus of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip to the heart of the war, towards the south of this enclave, as well as the delivery of emergency humanitarian aid to this region.
In fact Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to much less than it seems. “The fighting continues, but in particular areas, for a few hours, we will facilitate safe passage for civilians fleeing combat zones,” explained the prime minister. Military officials made it clear that this system would not apply to the entire northern Gaza Strip, but only to selected localities whose residents will be notified two to three hours in advance so that they can prepare to leave the premises. Furthermore, these provisions are practically nothing new.
They had already been applied since the beginning of the week, which allowed, for example, more than 100,000 Palestinians to take refuge in the south of the Gaza Strip. In other words, there is actually no tangible change, except that, to speed up the evacuation of civilians, a second route along the sea was opened on Friday. The Israeli army thus intends to limit “collateral damage” among civilians, while the battle rages for control of Gaza City, as well as the Shifa hospital located nearby where the center would be installed underground. of command and communications of the military branch of Hamas.
Asked about the Israeli “concession”, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not hide a certain disappointment. “Much more should be done to protect (Palestinian) civilians and provide humanitarian assistance,” he stressed. But the Prime Minister can hardly go beyond that. The general staff is hostile to a cessation of the fighting which, according to it, would play into the hands of Hamas by allowing it to heal its wounds, reorganize and prepare new attacks via the network of tunnels against the Israeli military. The families of some 240 Israeli and foreign hostages are also leading a campaign against anything that could appear as a ceasefire, if their loved ones are not released first.
On the political front, the Prime Minister, who is falling in the polls, cannot afford to go against the tide of public opinion by showing signs of weakness towards Hamas, which he has repeatedly promised to destroy. eradicate. He will not be forgiven for any misstep as he prepares to account for the fiasco of October 7 when Hamas commandos sowed death in southern Israel, before a commission of inquiry which will not fail to be established at the end of the war.