Israel's daily lull in fighting in part of Gaza: How does it work?

Israel said the daily partial suspension of its military activity in part of southern Gaza, which began this week, aims to make it safer for aid groups to deliver aid to the territory. Here's a look at how the pause works and whether aid workers believe it can ease the suffering of civilians that the United Nations says is bordering on famine:

The army said Sunday it had suspended operations during daylight hours in parts of southern Gaza, responding to claims by aid groups that active fighting often prevented them from distributing food. The policy applies to a seven-mile-long strip of southeast Gaza surrounding a major road stretch. It does not include coastal areas from which Palestinians have fled since Israel began its invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah in early May.

By Monday there was evidence that it had begun to gain traction.

Aid groups say the pause appears to have taken hold, but it will not automatically result in a free flow of aid.

Supplies are stored in warehouses before distribution. Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International, said Tuesday that it was “almost impossible” to find warehouses in Rafah, the aid epicenter, because they had been destroyed or were inaccessible.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that 1,400 trucks of aid that had been transferred from Israel to Gaza “remain uncollected” by international organizations. Before the war, the enclave received about 500 truckloads of food and other goods a day, according to the United Nations' humanitarian affairs office.

The entry of aid and commercial goods through Gaza's two main crossings, Rafah and Kerem Shalom, has fluctuated in recent months but has never reached the daily levels that humanitarian officials say are necessary to address the food crisis. The International Rescue Committee, which operates in Gaza, said that since Israel's offensive on Rafah began in early May “the situation has reached new, deeper levels.”

Humanitarian groups welcomed Israel's announcement, but some expressed skepticism, saying previous measures had proven false. Some aid groups have also said the daytime lull in military operations appears fragile. Overall, a full ceasefire is the prerequisite for ending the crisis because it would allow aid to flow throughout the enclave, aid groups say.

To resolve the crisis, aid groups say steps beyond the partial pause are needed. These include more routes open to both cargo and humanitarian personnel, as Palestinian health workers need to be trained to treat people suffering from acute malnutrition.

Israel inspects goods entering Gaza to exclude items that could potentially be used by Hamas; Humanitarian groups say these checks are burdensome and should be simplified. Furthermore, many roads in Gaza are impassable, blocked by the rubble of destroyed buildings or dotted with bomb craters.

In the absence of a ceasefire, aid groups say Israel should improve its communications system on the movement of people and goods within Gaza. This would help avoid attacks on humanitarian convoys, which in some cases occurred even when aid officials said Israeli authorities had been informed in advance of their movements.

Humanitarian organizations also say there is a need to improve the supply of water, electricity and fuel.

Rafah's population had grown to 1.4 million before the May invasion, but only 65,000 remain, according to the main U.N. agency helping Palestinians, UNRWA. The United Nations describes the situation in Gaza as a catastrophe and says parts of the enclave are close to what it describes as a man-made famine. Furthermore, there is a lack of water, sanitation, shelter and access to medical care.

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