Some Israeli troops leave Gaza as IDF focuses on Khan Younis city in Hamas battle: NPR

Israeli soldiers bombed a tank at a staging area in southern Israel near the border with Gaza on Sunday. The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in a war sparked by Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel.

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Israeli soldiers bombed a tank at a staging area in southern Israel near the border with Gaza on Sunday. The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in a war sparked by Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel.

Ohad Swigenberg/AP

TEL AVIV, Israel – Thousands of Israeli soldiers are being pulled out of the Gaza Strip, the army said Monday, in the first significant transfer of troops since the war, as forces continue to attack the main city in the southern half. Enclave.

The troop movement could signal a renewed easing of fighting in parts of Gaza, particularly the north, where the army has said it is close to taking operational control. Israel is under pressure from its main ally, the United States, which is beginning to shift to less intense fighting.

Word of the standoff came after the Biden administration bypassed Congress for the second time this month to approve an emergency arms sale to Israel ahead of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's visit to the region.

But heavy fighting continued in other parts of Gaza, particularly in the southern city of Khan Younis and in central parts of the territory. Israel has vowed to press ahead until its war aims are met, including the ousting of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years.

The military said in a statement on Monday that five brigades, or several thousand troops, are being pulled out of Gaza in the coming weeks for training and rest.

At a briefing on Sunday, announcing the troop withdrawal for the first time without specifying how many troops were leaving, Army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari did not say whether the decision was Israel starting a new phase of war.

“The objectives of the war require prolonged fighting and we are preparing accordingly,” he said.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas' military and governing capabilities in its war, which was sparked by the militant group's October 7 attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people. About 240 people were taken hostage.

More than 21,900 people were killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, as Israel responded with blistering air, ground and sea attacks, according to the health ministry in Gaza, whose numbers did not distinguish between civilians and militants.

Israel says more than 8,000 fighters have been killed. Hamas blames many civilian deaths, saying militants are hiding inside residential areas, including schools and hospitals.

The war has displaced 85% of Gaza's 2.3 million residents, although the military has sent people seeking shelter in Israeli-designated safe areas that have been bombarded. Palestinians feel that nowhere in the small territory is safe.

Wars in the South

In Khan Yunis, where Israel is believed to have thousands of troops, residents reported airstrikes and shelling in the west and center of the city. It has been reported that there have been clashes between the army and the terrorist group Islamic Jihad in the area.

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The Palestinian Red Crescent X earlier said on Twitter that several dead and wounded were transported following a late Sunday strike on Beach Street in Khan Yunis. It released nighttime footage showing medics carrying casualties to ambulances.

Palestinians injured in Israeli shelling in the Gaza Strip receive treatment at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday.

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Palestinians injured in Israeli shelling in the Gaza Strip receive treatment at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday.

Mohammad Tahman/AP

Fighting was also reported in urban refugee camps in central Gaza, where Israel expanded its offensive last week.

“This is our routine: bombings, massacres and martyrs,” said Said Moustafa, a Palestinian from the Nusirat camp. He said sporadic explosions and gunfire were heard in Nusirat and nearby Puraj and Mahaji camps.

“As we speak, there's a huge explosion not far from my house,” he said in a phone call Monday morning.

Gaza's health ministry said Monday that 156 people had been killed.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said Adel Misma, the regional commander of Hamas' elite Nukba forces, was killed in an airstrike in the central city of Deir al-Bala.

As midnight struck on New Year's Eve, Hamas fired a massive barrage of rockets at Israel, including its commercial hub of Tel Aviv.

'A different modus operandi'

Israel says the war will last for months. It has argued that time is needed to clear Gaza of terrorist weapons and infrastructure and prevent Hamas from carrying out further attacks. Israel has resisted international calls for a long-term ceasefire, saying doing so would be a victory for Hamas.

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Shlomo Brom, a retired Brigadier General who was once in charge of strategic planning in the Israeli army, said the troop changes may be the result of US pressure. He said this indicates a change in the way Israel conducts war in some areas.

“The war doesn't stop,” Brohm said. “It's the beginning of a different mode of operation.”

Israelis still overwhelmingly support the aims of the wars, even as the cost of soldiers' lives increases.

Over the weekend, of the soldiers killed since the ground operation began — a total of 172 as of Monday — 18 were killed by friendly fire, and 11 died from weapons or equipment malfunctions or accidents.

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