Israel withdraws troops from Hamas stronghold in southern Gaza

The Israeli army announced the withdrawal of infantry from Khan Younis, the stronghold of Hamas forces in the southern Gaza Strip, after “completing its mission” here.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on April 7 that “the 98th Commando Division has completed its mission at Khan Younis. “The division has left the southern Gaza Strip to recover and prepare for future operations.

However, a “significant force,” led by the 162nd Division and the Nahal Brigade, will continue to operate in the Gaza Strip to ensure “freedom of action and the capacity to carry out information-based operations.” accurate intelligence” by the IDF, according to the Israeli military.

This country’s media said the Nahal Brigade will be assigned the task of protecting the Netzarim Corridor. This is a route that extends from the settlement of Be’eri in southern Israel to the coast, dividing the Gaza Strip into two halves.

The Netzarim Corridor enables the Israeli army to conduct attacks in the northern and central Gaza Strip, prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to the north, as well as allow humanitarian organizations to deliver goods directly to the region.

An anonymous Israeli military official said the IDF withdrew troops from Khan Younis because there was “no longer a need for combat” there. “The 98th Division destroyed the Khan Younis brigades of Hamas and killed thousands of its members. We did everything we could there.”

According to this official, the withdrawal of troops will create conditions for local people to return home after fleeing to the city of Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. “However, the Israeli army will continue to operate there depending on operational needs,” this person said.

The IDF previously announced that it had disbanded 18 out of 24 Hamas battalions in the Gaza Strip, meaning these forces were no longer able to operate as organized military units. Four Hamas battalions are currently clustered in the city of Rafah, and two units are in central Gaza.

The IDF’s withdrawal from Hamas’s stronghold of Khan Younis in the south of the strip reduces the possibility of the Israeli army launching an offensive campaign on Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration has repeatedly affirmed that it will continue to send troops into Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians are taking refuge, raising the risk of a humanitarian disaster here.

The IDF’s move to withdraw troops came after US President Joe Biden warned that he would change policy with Israel if Tel Aviv did not take measures to minimize harm to civilians and ensure the safety of rescue workers.  Israel previously admitted that it mistakenly attacked an international aid convoy on April 1, killing 7 people and causing a wave of strong protests around the world.

However, an anonymous senior IDF official said the Israeli army’s departure from Khan Younis was not related to US pressure.