Israel says war to wind down in southern Gaza - GulfToday

Israel says war to wind down in southern Gaza


A smoke billows over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on Monday. AFP

Israel has said its operations against Hamas in southern Gaza will soon enter a less intensive phase, after the Palestinian group's health ministry reported the death toll in the territory had surpassed 24,000.

More than 100 days into the war, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense international pressure to end the fighting as civilian deaths soar and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens.

At the same time, deadly violence in the occupied West Bank, exchanges of fire over Israel's border with Lebanon, and strikes by US forces on Iran-backed Yemeni rebels acting in solidarity with Hamas have all raised fears of an escalation beyond the Gaza Strip.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Monday reiterated calls for a stop in the combat, saying: "We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to ensure sufficient aid gets to where it is needed, to facilitate the release of the hostages, to tamp down the flames of wider war — because the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, the greater the risk of escalation and miscalculation."

Israeli armoured vehicle convoy return from the Palestinian territory on Monday. AFP

As of Monday evening, at least 24,100 Palestinians, around 70 per cent of them women, young children and adolescents, had been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israel's bombardment and ground offensive, according to the Hamas government's health ministry — a figure that would represent roughly one percent of the territory's population.

Hamas's press office said Tuesday morning that Israeli strikes had killed another 78 people overnight.

The Israeli military also announced early Tuesday the death of one more soldier in Gaza, bringing the total number killed since its ground invasion began to 189.

The next phase

With the army having shifted its focus from Gaza's devastated north to the southern cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah in recent weeks, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told a news conference on Monday that intense operations would soon be winding down there as well.

People wait near the bodies killed in an Israeli strike at Abu Yousef Al Najjar hospital in Rafah. Reuters

"We made it clear that the intensive manoeuvring stage would last for approximately three months," Gallant told a news conference, adding that stage was already being reached in the northern Gaza Strip.

"In southern Gaza we will reach this achievement and it will end soon, and in both places, the moment will come when we will move to the next phase," he said, without specifying a time frame.

Israel's army confirmed that one of its four divisions operating in the territory completed its withdrawal on Monday.

Agence France-Presse


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