Israel withdraws troops from southern Gaza after fighting in Khan Younis

Humanitarian aid parachutes drop down over the northern Gaza Strip as seen from inside southern Israel on Monday, marking the six-month anniversary of Israel's war on Hamas. Photo by Jim Hollander/UPI
Humanitarian aid parachutes drop down over the northern Gaza Strip as seen from inside southern Israel on Monday, marking the six-month anniversary of Israel's war on Hamas. Photo by Jim Hollander/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it has withdrawn all of its troops from southern Gaza following fierce fighting against Hamas militants in the city of Khan Younis.

The IDF said in a statement issued to media outlets it has withdrawn its 98th Commando Division from Gaza after the unit had "concluded its mission" in the southern city.


The division is leaving to "recuperate and prepare for future operations." the statement read, leaving only two Israeli divisions -- the Nahal Brigade and the 162nd Division -- remaining in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

The IDF described those remaining troops as "a significant force" allowing it to preserve its "freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations."

The announcement came after the military said its commando teams battled Hamas elements in the Al Amal neighborhood of Khan Yunis during fierce weekend fighting, carrying out building-to-building raids while looking for weapons and alleged "terrorist infrastructure" in the area.


The IDF claimed it located a 900-meter tunnel route, inside of which it found "living rooms and many weapons." Four Israeli soldiers died in the operation.

The troop withdrawal from southern Gaza was implemented as international pressure mounted on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a humanitarian cease-fire in the wake of last week's deaths of seven humanitarian workers in an IDF airstrike.

According to Gaza's Ministry of Health, at least 33,137 people have been killed and 75,000 others injured while 75% of the population has been forcibly displaced during the six-month-old war in Gaza, which Israel launched in response to the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas that took the lives of 1,200 Israelis and saw hundreds more taken hostage.

Netanyahu's stated plans to launch a ground offensive against Hamas in southern Gaza's refugee haven of Rafah have also drawn strong international criticism.

The Swiss delegate to the United Nations Security Council warned Friday that "catastrophic humanitarian consequences" would result from a large-scale operation in Rafah while urging an immediate cease-fire as "the only way to ensure that no more civilian lives are lost."

Long-stalled cease-fire talks were expected to resume late Sunday in Egypt involving U.S. Central Intelligence Director Bill Burns, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.


Israel confirmed Sunday it would send a delegation to the latest attempt to negotiate a cease-fire, the Times of Israel reported; Hamas said Saturday it would also be sending a delegation.

It remained unclear Sunday if the withdrawal of IDF forces from southern Gaza signaled a long-term shift in Israel's strategy.

Netantayhu said at a Cabinet meeting Sunday that the "war remains ongoing" and the goal of achieving "total victory" over Hamas unchanged even amid domestic and international protests.

"Citizens of Israel, there is no war more just than this one, and we are determined to achieve total victory, to return all of our hostages, to complete the elimination of Hamas in the entire Gaza Strip including Rafah and to ensure that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel," he declared.

Scenes from Gaza: Palestinians bury dozens, flee Khan Younis

Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry workers prepare to bury the bodies of unidentified Palestinians whose date of death is not known at a mass grave east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 30, 2024. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

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