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Israeli military says it has withdrawn its forces from Khan Younis after months of fighting

Middle East
The Israeli military said it has withdrawn its ground forces from Khan Younis in southern Gaza after months of fierce fighting that left much of the city in ruins, CNN reports.
 
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Sunday that its 98th division had “concluded its mission” in Khan Younis. The division was leaving the Gaza Strip to “recuperate and prepare for future operations.”
 
The IDF added that “a significant force led by the 162nd division and the 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.”
 
Early in the war, the Israeli military designated Khan Younis as a safer zone and told residents from northern Gaza to seek shelter there. But the IDF then focused its offensive on the city, forcing residents to again flee its advances.
 
A CNN team along the border where troops enter and leave Gaza has not yet seen large numbers of troops withdraw, but it has seen a large number of tanks pull out of Khan Younis overnight. They are now stationed on the border of Gaza and Israel.
 
The IDF does not comment on the number of its troops in Gaza, but an Israeli brigade typically has roughly a few thousand troops. It remains unclear precisely how many Israeli troops have withdrawn from Gaza.
 
As of January, the 98th division was the military’s biggest-ever division, as it was specifically bolstered to fight Hamas in Khan Younis.
 
The withdrawal came amid international clamor for a pause in fighting and pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow more aid into Gaza, where a humanitarian catastrophe has gripped Palestinians.
 
But Netanyahu is also facing pressure from the right wing of his governing coalition to press ahead with the wider offensive.
 
Israel’s far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, warned on Monday that “if the prime minister decides to end the war without launching an extensive attack on Rafah to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue serving as prime minister.”
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