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Israel withdraws from Khan Younis as Gaza war hits 6-month mark

In World
April 07, 2024

The Israeli army says it has withdrawn its forces from the city of Khan Younis, the biggest in the southern Gaza Strip, as its war against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas hits the six-month mark.

“The IDF’s 98th commando division has concluded its mission in Khan Yunis. The division left the Gaza Strip in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Sunday.

A significant number of Israeli troops “continues to operate in the Gaza Strip, and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence based operations,” it said.

It was initially unclear whether the withdrawal from Khan Younis marked a turning point in Israel’s strategy in the ongoing Gaza war or a new intermediate stage on the way to a possible operation in the city of Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Despite strong international opposition, Israel has been maintaining for weeks that it is planning a large-scale ground incursion into Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are currently sheltering from fighting elsewhere in the sealed-off coastal area.

After tens of thousands of deaths, the vast majority among Palestinians, there is no immediate end in sight to the hostilities.

The war began on October 7 last year, when hundreds of terrorists, mainly from Hamas but also from other militant groups based in Gaza, flooded across the heavily guarded border and massacred people in nearby Israeli communities and at a music festival.

Some 1,200 people in Israel were killed, and 250 people were taken hostage back to Gaza. Since then, dozens have been released, and a few others have been found dead or freed by the Israeli army.

The unprecedented attack triggered a massive campaign of Israeli airstrikes, followed by a military ground offensive that began just weeks later in the north and has moved through every major town except Rafah in the very south.

According to Hamas authorities in Gaza, more than 32,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks so far.

Negotiations on a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas are continuing in Cairo, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increasing pressure both internationally and at home.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Saturday evening to protest against Netanyahu’s government and demand more concerted efforts to secure the release of the hostages abducted by Hamas.

An airstrike by Israeli forces on an aid convoy in the past week provoked outrage from some of Israel’s most solid international allies.

A delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas plans to travel to Cairo on Sunday for negotiations over a possible ceasefire, but these talks have faltered in recent weeks.

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