Residents said Israeli aircraft and tanks increased strikes in southern Gaza overnight after Israel announced plans to withdraw some troops, a move the U.S. said signalled a gradual shift to lower-intensity operations in the enclave’s north.
Israel claims that the war in Gaza, which has reduced much of the territory to rubble, killed thousands, and plunged the territory’s 2.3 million people into a humanitarian disaster, will last for months.
However, it signalled a new phase in its offensive, with an Israeli official saying on Monday that the military would withdraw from Gaza this month and transition to a months-long phase of more localized “mopping up” operations.
In accordance to an Israeli official, the troop reduction will allow some reservists to return to civilian life, strengthening Israel’s war-torn economy and releasing up units in the event of a larger conflict in the north with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The decision appeared to indicate the starting point of a shift to lower-intensity operations in the Palestinian enclave’s north. Washington has called on Israel to lessen the scale of its military campaign, joining the global chorus urging a cease-fire as the number of casualties continues to increase.
Residents, nevertheless, stated that Israeli planes and tanks grew their bombardment of the eastern and northern areas of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Since the start of the Gaza conflict, artillery fire between Hezbollah and Israel has rattled the border, with Israel’s military claiming an air strike on Monday.
The Israeli official pointed out that the situation on the Lebanese border “will not be accepted.” This coming six-month period is crucial.”
Any new escalation increases the possibility of a bigger regional war. Iran-backed groups have already attacked U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
The Gaza war started on October 7 with a surprise Hamas attack on Israeli towns, which Israel claims killed 1,200 people. According to Palestinian health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza, Israel’s offensive has killed over 21,978 people.
Residents of Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan district, in the northern part of the enclave targeted first by Israel’s offensive, said tanks had withdrawn after what they described as the most intense 10 days of fighting since the conflict began.
“The tanks were very close.” They were visible from outside the houses. “We couldn’t get out to get water,” said Nasser, a Sheikh Radwan father of seven.
Residents reported that tanks had also pulled out of Gaza City’s al-Mina district and parts of the Tel al-Hawa district while retaining some positions in the suburb controlling the enclave’s main coastal road.
On Monday, Hamas’ armed wing claimed to have killed 15 Israeli soldiers by detonating an explosive minefield east of Gaza City’s Tuffah neighbourhood.
Tanks remained in other parts of northern Gaza, and fighting in the enclave’s centre continued unabated, according to residents, who cited tank shelling of parts of the Al-Bureji refugee camp in central Gaza.
After more than a year of fighting, Hamas demonstrated its ability to target Israel by launching a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv.
On October 7, Hamas kidnapped 240 hostages, and Israel believes 129 are still being held in Gaza after some were released during a brief truce and others were killed during air strikes and rescue or escape attempts.
Qatar and Egypt are attempting to reach an agreement on a new truce and the release of hostages.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel must retake control of Gaza’s border with Egypt, which is now overrun with civilians fleeing the enclave’s violence.
Retaking the border could also amount to a de facto reversal of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, raising new concerns about the enclave’s future and the prospects for a Palestinian state.
When the conflict is over, Washington believes Israel should hand over control of Gaza to a Palestinian government.