Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would consider “tactical little pauses” in Gaza fighting, but again rejected a ceasefire despite international pressure.
Netanyahu said a general ceasefire would hamper his country’s war effort, but pausing fighting for humanitarian reasons, an idea supported by Israel’s top ally the United States, would continue to be considered based on circumstances.
“As far as tactical little pauses – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had them before. I suppose we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave,” Netanyahu told ABC News on Monday.
Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a social media post on his personal account said that the United States has been suggesting humanitarian pauses in the fighting but accused Washington of duplicity. Tehran has been focusing its rhetoric against the United States in recent days, but so far has chosen not to get directly involved in the conflict.
However, Iran’s proxy forces in Iraq and Syria continue to target US military bases, with injuries among servicemen increasing. So far, the Biden administration has responded in kind only once, despite repeated warnings to Tehran and its militant allies.
Having encircled densely populated Gaza City in the north of the enclave, where the Hamas Islamist group is based, Israel’s military said it had taken a militant compound and was set to attack fighters hiding in a warren of underground tunnels.
Israel has bombarded the enclave since the Hamas raid on southern Israel one month ago, when its fighters killed 1,400 people and seized 240 hostages.
Gaza health officials say the Israeli assault has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, including some 4,100 children, but these figures cannot be independently verified.
Both Israel and Hamas have rebuffed mounting calls for a halt in fighting. Israel says hostages should be released first. Hamas says it will not free them nor stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.
“But I don’t think there’s going to be a general ceasefire.”
US President Joe Biden discussed such pauses and possible hostage releases in a phone call with Netanyahu on Monday, reiterating his support for Israel while emphasizing that it must protect civilians, the White House said.
Like Israel, the US fears Hamas would take advantage of a full ceasefire to regroup.
International organizations have said hospitals cannot cope with the wounded and food and clean water are running out with aid deliveries nowhere near enough.
“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” said a statement from the heads of several United Nations’ bodies on Monday.
The Israeli military said on Tuesday it took control of a Hamas military stronghold in the northern Gaza Strip, where it said the forces located anti-tank missiles and launchers, weapons and various intelligence materials.
Israeli aircraft struck several Hamas militants who had barricaded themselves in a building near the al-Quds Hospital and planned to launch an attack on Israeli forces, it said.
The Israeli military on Monday released video of tanks moving through bombed-out streets and groups of troops moving on foot. It says it has surrounded Gaza City, cutting off northern parts of the narrow coastal strip from the south.
In a press briefing, chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said troops were hunting Hamas field level commanders to weaken the militants’ ability “to carry out counter attacks.”
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Monday. The 15-member body is still trying to agree a resolution after failing four times in two weeks to act. Diplomats said a key obstacle is whether to call for a ceasefire, cessation of hostilities or humanitarian pauses to allow aid access in Gaza.
At a meeting of foreign ministers from the G7 leading democracies in Tokyo, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said the group plans to call for a pause in fighting and allowing humanitarian access to Gaza.
With reporting by Reuters