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Israel pulls some troops from southern Gaza, 6 months after Oct. 7 attacks

People walk past destroyed buildings along a road in Khan Younis on April 7, 2024 after Israel pulled its ground forces out of the southern Gaza Strip, six months into the war sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks.
Yasser Qudih
Middle East Images/AFP via Getty
People walk past destroyed buildings along a road in Khan Younis on April 7, 2024 after Israel pulled its ground forces out of the southern Gaza Strip, six months into the war sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks.

The Israeli military announced Sunday that it is pulling troops out of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, that has been a target of Israeli operations.

The latest update on Israel's ongoing military invasion comes six months to the day after the surprise attacks led by Hamas on Oct. 7 that sparked the ensuing conflict.

Around 1,200 people were killed during the attacks, Israeli officials say, and more than 250 hostageswere taken to Gaza. Around 130 hostagesremain there six months later, some of whom are known to be dead.

Israel's subsequent military campaign in Gaza has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, mostly women and children. The war has leveled infrastructure, displaced many of the two million Palestinians living in Gaza and caused widespread hunger.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Israel to protest the inability of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to secure the release of the remaining hostages, the BBC reported.

Earlier on Saturday the Israeli government announced that it had retrieved the body of Elad Katzir, 47, who was kidnapped on Oct. 7.

A new round of talks to reach a potential ceasefire were set to take place in Cairo on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. Hamas will send a delegation, as will Israel. President Joe Biden has sent CIA Director Bill Burns to the talks.

Israeli army pulls troops out of Khan Younis

The Israeli army announced Sunday that the 98th commando division had departed Gaza, after it "concluded its mission" in the southern city of Khan Younis.

"The division left the Gaza strip in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations," the Israeli military said in a statement.

Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant claimed in February that the military had defeated Hamas in the Khan Younis and was preparing to invade Rafah, which sits about five miles south along the border with Egypt, and where more than 1.2 million Palestinians are now displaced. Last month, Netanyahu announced Israel's plan to capture Rafah.

But White House national security communications advisor John Kirby told ABC's This Week on Sunday that it's unclear whether the announcement foreshadows anything about Israel's broader war effort.

"It's hard to know exactly what that tells us right now," Kirby said. "As we understand it, and through their public announcements, it is really just about rest and refit for these troops that have been on the ground for four months, and not necessarily — that we can tell — indicative of some coming new operation for these troops."

The 162nd division and the Nahal brigade will continue to operate in Gaza, the Israeli military added.

Six months of war

Six months after the Oct. 7 attacks, families continue to await word of their loved ones who were kidnapped, while Palestinians in Gaza live under constant bombardment and fear of famine.

Yousef Munayyer, a senior fellow at the Arab Center Washington D.C., said Palestinians he's spoken to are shocked that political leaders across the globe haven't done more to end the violence there.

"There's almost a disbelief that the rest of the world understands what's happening and isn't doing something to stop it," Munayyer said.

But inside Israel, many Israeli Jews say the military shouldn't take the suffering of people in Gaza into consideration as it conducts operations aimed in part at rescuing the Oct. 7 hostages still in captivity, said Israel Democracy Institute senior fellow Tamar Hermann.

"Once the hostages are back home, I'm sure that we will see much more criticism over what happened in Gaza, the suffering of the Gazans and the continuation of the war," she told NPR.

Hermann suggested there is growing dissatisfaction in Israel over the government's inability to bring all of the hostages home, and that some of the captives' family members have begun to join the larger anti-government movement.

"It is out of despair and not necessarily because of political affiliation with the other protesters there," she added.

The conflict has also reverberated well beyond the borders of Gaza and Israel, capturing the world's attention. The U.S. has attempted to balance support for its ally Israel with condemnations of the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Meanwhile, the ongoing war has led to anger and additional fighting in other parts of the Middle East.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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