update deskIsrael at War

IDF withdraws all troops from southern Gaza

Only one brigade remains in the Strip; terrorists in Khan Yunis fire rocket barrage at Israeli towns.

Israeli soldiers operating in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, April 6, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli soldiers operating in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, April 6, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israel Defense Forces has withdrawn all ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, with only one brigade remaining in the coastal enclave, according to reports on Sunday.

This comes after four months of fighting in the former Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis and six months since the start of the war.

According to IDF sources on Sunday, the IDF’s 98th Division has concluded its mission in Khan Yunis. The division left the Gaza Strip to recuperate and prepare for future operations. A significant force led by the 162nd Division and the division’s Nahal Brigade continues to operate in the Gaza Strip, and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations, the sources said.

The move also comes after last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again reiterated that the IDF would defeat Hamas by entering the last terrorist stronghold of Rafah, south of Khan Yunis.

“There is no victory without entering Rafah; there is no victory without destroying the Hamas battalions there,” said Netanyahu in a primetime address, adding that the operation “will take time, but it will happen.”

The premier once again said that only a combination of military pressure and tough negotiations would bring about the release of the remaining 133 hostages taken to Gaza by Palestinian terrorists on Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, early on Sunday afternoon, red alert warning sirens sounded across parts of southern Israel as Hamas fired a rocket barrage at Israeli towns east of Khan Yunis.

Color Red alerts were activated in the “Gaza Envelope” moshavim of Ami’oz, Mivtahim, Ohad, Sde Nitzan, Talmei Eliyahu and Yesha, and the community settlement of Tzohar.

Terrorists in Khan Yunis fired four rockets towards towns in Israel’s Eshkol region, hours after the IDF withdrew from the Gazan city. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted two of the rockets.

According to the reports on Sunday, the last brigade remaining in the Strip is the Nahal infantry unit, which is there to secure the Netzarim Corridor that splits the Gazan north and south, enabling the IDF to control movements in the Strip. It crosses the Strip from the Be’eri area in southern Israel to the Mediterranean coast.

The Netzarim Corridor prevents Gazans from returning to the north of the Strip and allows for humanitarian aid to enter directly into northern Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Sunday that, despite the pullout from southern Gaza, the military is “far from stopping” the war against Hamas terrorists.

“Senior Hamas officials are still in hiding. We will get to them sooner or later. We are making progress, continuing to kill more terrorists and commanders and destroy more terror infrastructures,” Halevi said in a press statement marking six months since the Oct. 7 attacks.

“We will not leave Hamas brigades active in any part of the Strip. We have plans and we will act when we decide,” stated the military leader, adding: “We are fighting this war differently; it is different from its predecessors.”

Four Israel Defense Forces commandoes were killed in action in southern Gaza on Saturday, the IDF announced on Sunday. Terrorists emerged from a tunnel in Khan Yunis and ambushed the soldiers at close range, the army said.

The attack raised the military’s death toll to 604 on all fronts since the war started. Their deaths bring the number of soldiers slain since the start of Israeli ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27 to 260.

Highlighting that Israeli forces were active in Khan Yunis until just before their withdrawal, the IDF said on Sunday that soldiers were operating over the past 24 hours in the Al-Amal neighborhood, finding weapons, killing terrorists and dismantling terrorist infrastructure.

Over a hundred sites were searched in the Al-Amal operation, “and terrorist infrastructure was found in every location.”

Israeli forces also destroyed a 900-meter-long tunnel route where large quantities of weapons were stored.

“Throughout the fighting, the soldiers positioned themselves in strategic places, eliminated terrorists and struck combat compounds using precise munitions. In one incident, using a precision missile, the forces eliminated two Hamas operatives and a Hamas team commander,” the IDF said.

The IDF said on Saturday that it had destroyed three Hamas attack tunnels in the Khan Yunis area, some of which reached into Israeli territory. The tunnels had been under intelligence and technological surveillance for several years, according to the military.

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