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The Israeli army announces a ‘tactical pause’ in a bid to increase the flow of aid to hard-hit Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army on Sunday announced a “tactical pause” in its offensive in the southern Gaza Strip to allow the delivery of increased amounts of humanitarian aid.

The military said the pause in the Rafah area would begin at 8 a.m. (05 a.m. GMT, 1 a.m. eastern) and would remain in force until 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT, 12 a.m. eastern). It said the breaks would take place every day until further notice.

The pause is intended to allow aid trucks to reach the nearby Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point for incoming aid, and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway, a major north-south road, to deliver supplies to other countries. parts of Gaza, the military said. It said the pause is being coordinated with the UN and international aid agencies.

The border crossing has been experiencing a bottleneck since Israeli ground forces entered Rafah in early May.

Israel’s eight-month military offensive against the militant group Hamas has plunged Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, with the UN reporting widespread hunger and hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine. The international community has urged Israel to do more to ease the crisis.

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From May 6 to June 6, the UN received an average of 68 trucks of aid per day, according to figures from the UN humanitarian agency known as OCHA. That was a decrease from the 168 trucks per day in April and far below the 500 trucks per day that aid organizations say are needed.

The flow of aid in southern Gaza dropped just as the humanitarian need grew. More than 1 million Palestinians, many of whom had already been displaced, fled Rafah after the invasion and crowded into other parts of southern and central Gaza. Most now languish in dilapidated tent camps, using trenches as latrines and with open sewage on the streets.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, says there are no restrictions on truck access. It said that between May 2 and June 13, more than 8,600 trucks of all kinds, both aid and commercial, entered Gaza from all border crossings, an average of 201 per day. But much of that aid has piled up at border crossings and has not reached its final destination.

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A COGAT spokesman, Shimon Freedman, said it was the UN’s fault that their cargo was piling up on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom. He said the agencies have “fundamental logistical problems that they have not solved,” mainly a lack of trucks.

The UN denies such accusations. It says fighting between Israel and Hamas often makes it too dangerous for UN trucks in Gaza to travel to Kerem Shalom, which is right next to Israel’s border.

It also says the pace of deliveries has slowed because the Israeli military must authorize drivers to travel to the site, a system Israel says is designed for the drivers’ safety. Due to a lack of security, aid trucks have also in some cases been looted by crowds as they travel along Gaza’s roads.

The new scheme aims to reduce the need to coordinate deliveries by providing an uninterrupted 11-hour window each day for trucks to enter and exit the crossing.

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It was not immediately clear whether the military would provide security to protect the emergency trucks as they move along the highway.

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