Israel will pause fighting in the northern Gaza strip for four hours each day to allow civilians to flee, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday.
Kirby told reporters that Israel’s military would issue an announcement three hours prior to each day’s pause, NBC News reported.
“We remain concerned that Hamas will discourage or prevent civilians from fleeing,” Kirby said, according to the outlet. “It’s critical, absolutely vital, that humanitarian supplies and assistance are expanded in the areas where people are moving, in this case, southern Gaza.”
According to CNN, Israeli officials promised “that there will be no military operations in these areas over the duration of the pause, and that this process is starting today.”
President Biden asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement the pauses during a phone call on Monday, the Associated Press reported, and also asked the Israelis to halt fighting for at least three days to allow for negotiations over some hostages held by Hamas.
The group still holds an estimated 239 Israeli hostages, according to Israeli officials, and US officials estimate that fewer than 10 are American citizens. Kirby said Thursday that getting the hostages out was “a nice finite goal,” the AP reported.
In a post on X, the Israel Defense Forces characterized the policy as “tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid for Gazan civilians,” adding, “there is no ceasefire.”
President Biden appeared to agree, telling reporters that there was “no possibility” of a ceasefire.
The announcement follows announcements by authorities in Gaza that Israeli strikes have killed more than 10,000 people in the territory, and by Israel that more than 1,400 Israelis were killed in the October 7 attack carried out by Hamas. United Nations and other humanitarian aid officials have said a ceasefire is urgently needed, as Palestinians are living on minimal food—typically two pieces of bread a day, according to one UN official—and at least 88 UN aid workers have been killed. Women and children have made up the majority of casualties in Gaza, according to the United Nations Population Fund.