TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — 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 began as forces continued to attack the main city in the south. Half of the 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 tug-of-war came before Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's visit to the region and after the Biden administration. He boycotted the Congress for the second time An emergency arms sale to Israel must be approved this month.
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. The October 7 attack by the militant group In southern Israel, 1,200 people were killed. About 240 people were taken hostage.
Israel retaliated A blistering air, land and sea attack It has killed more than 21,900 people in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, whose numbers do 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 is safe Small accommodation.
As tensions run high across the region, the US announced on Monday that it would stay Sending an aircraft carrier strike group home and replace it with an amphibious assault ship and accompanying frigates.
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.
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.
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 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.
An Associated Press reporter found at least 17 bodies, including four children, after a missile hit a house in the central Gazan city of Deir al-Bala. The injured were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. No other details about the blast were immediately available.
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 mode of operation'
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.
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.
The fighting in Gaza threatens to spill over into the rest of the region.
Israel has been engaged in almost daily battles with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon to the north of Israel, and has also struck targets linked to Iran in neighboring Syria. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have fired long-range missiles at Israel and attacked civilian cargo ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global shipping trade.
The U.S. has sent warships to the Mediterranean and Red Seas to protect Israel, underscoring concerns that the fighting could escalate.
On Monday, the U.S. Navy, after months of extra duty at sea, USS Gerald R. Ford Aircraft Carrier Battle Group Going home. Ford will be replaced by the amphibious assault ships USS Bataan and accompanying frigates USS Mesa Verde and USS Carter Hall. All three ships were in the Red Sea.
Ford was there Sent to the Eastern Mediterranean Israel's strike must be within striking distance of the day after Hamas's October 7 attack. Accompanying warships headed to the Red Sea, where they intercepted incoming ballistic missiles and attacked drones launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen.
Ford and USS Dwight D. The Eisenhower aircraft carrier is part of a two-carrier presence marking the Israel-Hamas war. Eisenhower recently patrolled near the Gulf of Aden, at the mouth of the Red Sea waterway, where there are many merchant ships. are under attack In recent weeks.
Jobein reports from Rafah, Gaza Strip and Maqdi from Cairo. Associated Press writer Tara Cobb in Washington contributed to this report.
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