Israeli President Isaac Herzog signaled on Tuesday that the Jewish state is ready to work out another foreign-mediated temporary cease-fire in Gaza.
‘Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages,’ Herzog told a gathering of ambassadors, according to his office.
‘And the responsibility lies fully with (Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar and (other) Hamas leadership,’ he said, according to Reuters.
Last month, a seven-day pause brought the release of more than 100 hostages.
‘The amount of humanitarian aid can be tripled instantaneously,’ Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, told a group of ambassadors from 80 countries at his Jerusalem residence on Monday. ‘You can triple the amount of trucks easily if there was only an effort by the United Nations and its partners. The world has to know that you could have had tens of thousands of tons a day more going into Gaza.’
According to the president’s office readout, Herzog also ‘noted that Israel was not in a war with the Palestinian people, but was fighting its enemy the terrorist organization Hamas.’
The Israeli president claimed Israel has been inspecting hundreds of trucks at its Nitzana Crossing each day but that United Nations agencies and partners on the ground are not keeping pace, resulting in just between 100–125 trucks entering a day. The U.N., meanwhile, has rejected the categorization, saying Israeli bombing has complicated safe delivery of aid.
On Sunday, the Kerem Shalom Crossing opened for the first time to welcome aid trucks since Hamas’ October 7 attack prompted Israel’s declaration of war against the terror group operating in Gaza, Reuters reported. Before then, aid had been bottle-necking, coming solely through Gaza’s Rafah Crossing with Egypt. To abide by an agreement with the United States, the Israeli military said starting Sunday, U.N. aid trucks will undergo security checks and be transferred directly to Gaza via Kerem Shalom.
Herzog’s remarks come after CIA Director William Burns jetted to Europe for talks with Israeli and Qatari officials Monday, sounding out the potential for a deal on a new cease-fire and the release of hostages in Gaza, as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Israeli military leaders about scaling back major combat operations against Hamas.
Pressure is growing as France, the United Kingdom and Germany — some of Israel’s closest allies — joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend. Israeli protesters have demanded the government relaunch talks with Hamas on releasing more hostages after three were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops while waving a white flag.
U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concern about the large number of civilian deaths in Gaza. However, after talks with Israeli officials Monday, Austin said, ‘This is Israel’s operation. I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms.’ The U.S. has vetoed calls for a cease-fire at the United Nations and has rushed munitions to Israel.
The U.N. Security Council delayed to Tuesday a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities to allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the U.S. to abstain or vote ‘yes’ on the resolution, according to The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.