Israel withdraws from southern Gaza… Hamas says no progress in ceasefire talks – Chosun Ilbo VRESP TODAY

A man walks among rubble and damaged buildings in Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip where the Israeli military withdrew many of its troops on the 7th./AFP Yonhap News

As Israel, six months into its war against the Palestinian armed group Hamas, has withdrawn a significant number of its ground troops from the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the international community is paying attention to whether the two sides will agree to a temporary ceasefire, but observations on the possibility of a ceasefire are mixed.

Iran repeatedly warned of a retaliatory attack for the loss of military commanders in Israel’s bombing of the Syrian consulate on the 1st. The Israeli military also revealed that it is preparing to attack the Islamic group Hezbollah in the border area with Lebanon, north of its territory, and the front line appears to be expanding further. Attention is being paid to whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure from the international community, including U.S. President Joe Biden, will be able to take proactive measures to reduce civilian casualties such as the spread of famine in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli military spokesman announced on this day, “Most of the ground forces, except for one brigade, were withdrawn from the southern Gaza Strip last night.” The withdrawn 98th Division has been fighting in Khan Yunis, the largest city in southern Gaza, for over four months. The remaining Nahal Brigade decided to continue guarding the ‘Netjarim Passage’ that runs east to west across the ‘waist’ part of the Gaza Strip and reaches the Mediterranean Sea. Local media reported, “There is a possibility that Israel will change its tactics to focus on selective surprise attacks against high-ranking Hamas officials instead of occupying the major cities of Gaza.” CNN evaluated the troop withdrawal as “an important transition.” According to the U.S. Institute of War Research, there is speculation that Israel may be leaving Khan Younis empty as an evacuation site for refugees in case it attacks Rafah, the border city in the southernmost part of Gaza, where 1.4 million refugees are currently concentrated. In fact, on this day, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “(Troop troops) are preparing for the next mission in Rafah and other places.”

On October 7 last year, Hamas crossed the Gaza separation barrier installed by Israel, massacred about 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250, and currently holds about 100 hostages. In early December last year, more than 33,000 Palestinians were killed as a result of indiscriminate airstrikes, including the entry of Israeli ground forces into Khan Yunis. In particular, public opinion in the international community deteriorated sharply after the Israeli military accidentally exploded a vehicle of the international relief organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) on the 1st, killing seven activists, including Americans.

Meanwhile, no major breakthrough has yet been achieved in cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas. On this day, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the Israeli delegation participating in ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, which is being mediated by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar, in Cairo, Egypt, was instructed to ‘show a more flexible attitude.’ On the other hand, a Hamas official told Reuters, “There is nothing new in these talks and there is no progress.”

Recently, a rally of over 100,000 people took place in Israel demanding an immediate ceasefire for the release of hostages and the resignation of Netanyahu. In particular, Netanyahu is under pressure from far-right political parties who threaten to end the coalition if he slows down his offensive against Hamas. On this day, the New York Times said, “If the war in Gaza ends, there is a high possibility that Netanyahu will be kicked out immediately through elections.” “For this reason, there are observations that Netanyahu is prolonging the war by not advancing to Rafah, holding a ceasefire, or retreating.” He said.

Meanwhile, Reuters and other sources reported that on this day, the Israeli military was preparing to change its military operation against Hezbollah on the northern border from ‘defense’ to ‘offensive’. The NYT said, “(The Gaza War) is the longest war involving Israel since the 1980s.”

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