The Israeli military says it has withdrawn its forces from Khan Younis after months of fighting.

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By journalsofus.com


Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Months of fighting in Khan Younis have devastated the area.



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The Israeli army said it has withdrawn its ground forces from Khan Younis in southern Gaza after months of fierce fighting.

He Israel Defense Forces (IDF) He said on Sunday that his 98th division had “concluded its mission” in Khan Younis. The division was leaving the Gaza Strip to “recover and prepare for future operations.”

The IDF added that “a significant force led by the 162nd Division and the Nahal Brigade continues to operate in the Gaza Strip and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to carry out precise operations based on intelligence.”

A CNN crew along the border where troops enter and exit Gaza has not yet seen a large number of troops withdraw, but has seen a large number of tanks withdraw from Khan Younis overnight. They are now stationed on the border of Gaza and Israel.

An Israeli brigade usually has a few thousand soldiers, but it is still unclear exactly how many Israeli soldiers have withdrawn from Gaza.

In January, the 98th Division was the largest military division ever created, having been reinforced specifically to fight Hamas in Khan Younis.

When CNN asked about the reasons for the withdrawal, the IDF declined to comment. The IDF also did not comment on whether this means there are no more forces on the ground in southern Gaza.

What is also unclear is what the withdrawal means for Israel’s plans to invade Rafah, the southernmost part of Gaza that has become a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israel has said a raid on Rafah is essential to achieving its goal of removing Hamas from Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday that troops were leaving Gaza to prepare for follow-up missions, including in the Rafah region.

“Troops go out and prepare before their follow-up missions. We saw examples of these types of missions in action in Shifa. And also for its follow-up mission in the Rafah region,” Gallant said during his visit to the army’s Southern Command.

“We are reaching a situation where Hamas does not control the Gaza Strip and does not function as a military framework that poses a risk to the citizens of the State of Israel,” Gallant said, noting that he has completed an assessment of the situation. the IDF Southern Command as its forces withdraw from Khan Younis.

The Defense Minister added that Israeli forces in Khan Younis managed to destroy “enemy targets, warehouses, weapons and underground areas.” [infrastructure]campus [and] communication rooms”.

The Israeli public broadcaster and CNN affiliate Channel 11 reported on Sunday that the remaining forces would be located along the so-called Netzarim Corridor, a route that divides the Gaza Strip in two. The corridor, named after the former Israeli settlement of Netzarim in Gaza, crosses one of Gaza’s two main north-south roads, Salaheddin Street, to create a strategic central junction.

Before withdrawing, the IDF said on Sunday that commando units had raided and searched more than a hundred locations in the Al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, where they found a long tunnel and “eliminated the terrorists.” CNN cannot independently verify those claims.

Speaking to ABC’s ‘The Week’, White House national security communications adviser John Kirby said the move was unlikely to signal any new incoming operations, but rather a “rest and reconditioning”.

“They have been on the ground for four months. What they tell us is that they are tired and need to be reconditioned.”

The United States is Israel’s main ally, but has been pressuring the country to do more to protect civilians and allow in aid.

On a call this week Between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden told Netanyahu to take action to address the crisis or face the consequences.

Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

People walk past damaged and destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis on April 7, after Israel withdrew its ground forces from the area.

Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

International pressure has been increasing on Israel, and its close ally the United States has called for more to be done to protect civilians.

The IDF began its campaign against Hamas in northern Gaza shortly after the October 7 attacks that killed about 1,200 people. Early in the war, the Israeli military designated Khan Younis as a safer zone and told residents of northern Gaza to seek refuge there.

But as the IDF increasingly shifted its focus southward, the city became a battlefield.

On December 1, the Israeli military launched a massive air operation in Khan Younis, dropping leaflets in the city asking residents to evacuate immediately.

Since then, it has been a site of intense fighting, leaving the area devastated. Visiting the site earlier this year, CNN found buildings completely destroyed or others beyond repair.

The IDF says the city is a Hamas stronghold, adding that the network of tunnels beneath the city’s civilian buildings was likely where Hamas planned the October 7 attacks from. The city is the hometown of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

Hamas has denied hiding in hospitals and other civilian structures and CNN cannot independently verify any of the claims.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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