Rubble and destruction near Rafah in Gaza

People conduct rescue work among the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Nov. 22, 2023.

(Photo by Khaled Omar/Xinhua via Getty Images)

A 'Humanitarian Pause' Is Good. And Now We Need a Total Cease-Fire in Gaza

With Palestinians, UN officials, humanitarian experts and internationally known genocide scholars naming Israel’s bombardment and blockade as genocide, the violence simply must stop. That is only possible through a mutual, binding agreement to ceasefire.

The pause in the fighting in Gaza — with some humanitarian aid allowed in and exchange of some Israeli and Palestinian captives — is important, but not nearly enough. We need to fight for a permanent ceasefire.

What’s in the new agreement?

In the current deal between Israel and Hamas — brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States — all parties agree to stop fighting for four days. Hamas will release 50 women and children it took captive on October 7, and Israel will release 150 women and children who are among the 10,000 or so Palestinians it holds in Israeli military prisons.

There is the possibility of extending the pause — and exchanging more captives — for up to five more days after the initial agreement is implemented, potentially leading to a pause of as many as nine days.

Why is it important?

The most obvious significance of this deal is humanitarian. Captives will be freed from Gaza and from Israel, and Israel’s massive bombardment of Gaza will pause, as will Palestinian fighters’ firing of rockets into Israel. Desperately needed humanitarian aid convoys and fuel will be allowed into Gaza.

This agreement is the product of a negotiation between the parties involved, and it extends across the whole Gaza Strip. But it is explicitly temporary.

This is also important because it proves that diplomacy can work.

Ending the continuing deaths under Israeli bombs, and securing the release of captives is happening not because of fighting, but because of negotiations. And that means more diplomacy can work too — perhaps leading to a full ceasefire, an exchange of all captives, full humanitarian access into Gaza, and ultimately an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip.

Does this arrangement end the fighting?

No, this is not the permanent ceasefire that UN agencies, activists, and many others have been — and still are — calling for. It is an agreement to pause the fighting for a few days, release some of the captives, and allow some aid into Gaza. It is different from Israel’s previous pauses in fighting, which were unilateral — without any conversation with or agreement from Palestinian forces — and limited to small individual parts of Gaza and short, finite time periods. This agreement is the product of a negotiation between the parties involved, and it extends across the whole Gaza Strip.

But it is explicitly temporary. Israel has said that it will only pause fighting for a maximum of nine days. In the past few days, Israeli forces have surrounded the city and refugee camp of Jabaliya and begun new attacks there. They are preparing to resume the kind of very intensive assault there that we have seen throughout the siege as soon as the temporary truce is over.

What is a permanent ceasefire and why is it necessary?

A permanent ceasefire calls for an end of all military operations on all sides. It will inevitably require the release of more captives being held in Gaza and Israel. It will have to involve urgently needed humanitarian relief on a massive scale getting into Gaza. And, as Palestinians are demanding, it must affirm the right of Palestinians who live in Gaza to stay there, as Israel has discussed permanently displacing Palestinians from Gaza in this moment.

The human toll of this fighting has been catastrophic. More than 14,000 people in Gaza and 1,200 in Israel have been killed, with untold numbers wounded. A much wider disaster is unfolding in Gaza after weeks of Israel depriving the Strip of clean water, electricity, fuel, and food, with waterborne disease spreading. Over one and a half million people have been displaced from their homes. With hospitals having run out of fuel for their generators, and Israel carrying out military assaults in and around hospitals, the health system in Gaza has largely collapsed.

With Palestinians, UN officials, humanitarian experts and internationally known genocide scholars naming Israel’s bombardment and blockade as genocide, the violence simply must stop. That is only possible through a mutual, binding agreement to ceasefire.

What can we do?

Keep reaching out to members of Congress and other elected officials and demand that they work to stop the killing — and call for a permanent ceasefire. Urge support for continuing diplomacy, instead of sending more weapons and warplanes and cash for the military.

There is no military solution — we need to convince Washington that we need negotiation, not war!

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