The Israeli government has commenced a substantial reduction of its troops in the Gaza Strip, marking the first step towards de-escalation since the conflict began. This decision comes as the conflict enters a new phase, with Israel vowing to persist in its campaign until it achieves its objectives, which include dismantling the militant group Hamas in Gaza.
On Monday, the Israeli military announced that several thousand troops, equivalent to five brigades, would be gradually withdrawn from Gaza for rest and training purposes in the upcoming weeks. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari emphasized the need for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to plan, acknowledging the likelihood of additional tasks and warfare throughout the year. Despite the troop reduction, intense fighting persists in various areas of Gaza, particularly in the southern city of Khan Younis and central regions of the territory.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a prominent figure in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, has stirred controversy by urging Palestinian residents of Gaza to evacuate the besieged enclave. His remarks contradict the official government stance, which assures Gazans of their ability to return to their homes after the war. An official from the prime minister’s office clarified, “Contrary to false allegations, Israel does not seek to displace the population in Gaza.”
The ongoing war, triggered by a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, has resulted in significant civilian casualties. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, over 21,800 individuals have lost their lives, with two-thirds of them being women and children. The Palestinian Red Crescent has reported the transportation of several deceased and injured individuals following an airstrike in Khan Younis.
In the recent update, the Israeli military has disclosed that out of the 172 soldiers who lost their lives since the commencement of the ground operation, 18 were victims of friendly fire, while an additional 11 succumbed to accidents or malfunctions involving weapons or equipment. Shockingly, this means that one out of every six Israeli soldiers killed during the ground offensive was either mistakenly killed or fell victim to their comrades.