Israel Plans to Withdraw Some Troops From Gaza


The Israeli military announced on Monday that it will begin withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza at least temporarily, in what would be the most significant publicly announced pullback since the war began.

The military cited a growing toll on the Israeli economy following nearly three months of wartime mobilization with little end in sight to the fighting. Israel had been considering scaling back its operations, and the United States has been prodding it to do so more quickly as the death toll in Gaza continues to rise. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war, according to local health authorities.

Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, emphasized that the move to demobilize some soldiers did not indicate any compromise on Israel’s intention to continue fighting, and he did not mention the American requests to scale back. He indicated that some will be called back to service in the coming year. Still, the fighting remains intense across Gaza.

Reservists from at least two brigades will be sent home this week, the Israeli military said in a statement, and three brigades will be taken back for training.

“This move is expected to significantly alleviate economic burdens and enable them to gather strength for upcoming activities in the next year,” the Israeli military said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is expected to return to Israel in early January for further talks on the war, according to U.S. officials, after having met with a top Netanyahu aide in Washington last week alongside Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser. The three discussed pivoting to a different phase of the war to “maximize focus on high-value Hamas targets,” a White House official said.

Israel began its campaign against Hamas after 1,200 people were killed in Israel in an attack by the Palestinian armed group and more than 240 people were taken hostage, according to the Israeli authorities. In response, the Israeli government launched a campaign to topple Hamas’s rule in Gaza and authorized the mobilization of over 350,000 reservists for the war effort.

The call-up added to the economic burden faced by hundreds of thousands of Israelis who fled their homes on Israel’s borders following the attacks. The Israeli economy is expected to shrink by 2 percent this quarter, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, a nonpartisan think tank in Israel, said in late December, as many left the labor force for reserve duty or abandoned businesses in their hometowns.

Israeli leaders have continued to tell the public to expect a long military campaign, even as some critics have voiced skepticism as to whether the goal of eliminating Hamas is ultimately feasible.

“The goals of the war require prolonged fighting and we are preparing accordingly,” Rear Admiral Hagari told reporters in a televised news briefing on Sunday night.

But Israeli officials have said they intend to eventually transition to a new stage of the war, which would see more directed attacks against Hamas rather than the all-out ground invasion seen thus far.

In the Gaza Strip, months of war have displaced more than 85 percent of Gaza’s 2 million-plus residents, according to the United Nations, many of whom have crowded into shrinking safe zones in the enclave’s south. Many have sought shelter in hospitals and schools, where the search for adequate food and water has become a daily ordeal.

Fighting continued overnight on Monday. Shortly after midnight — just after Israelis and Palestinians rang in the New Year — Hamas took responsibility for a rocket barrage from Gaza that sent scores fleeing to bomb shelters in central Israel.

Israeli troops also struck targets in northern and central Gaza, the Israeli military said on Monday, claiming to eliminate a Hamas militant commander. There was no immediate confirmation by Hamas.



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