Palestinians return to devastated Khan Younis as opportunity for peace opens

Residents of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip began returning to their town on Sunday as the Israeli army announced the withdrawal of its troops after months of intense fighting in the area. According to the pictures and stories, many returned there the second largest city on the Strip and found it unrecognizable, with destroyed or damaged buildings and Streets covered in rubble where there were shops and houses in front of 7-O.

Before Hamas’ attack on more than twenty Israeli communities, the city and its surroundings It housed about 400,000 people.

In response to the Hamas-led attack, Israel sent troops into Khan Yunes as part of the ground offensive last December, and now there are fears in Israel that without that military presence in the city, the Islamists might try to regroup there, like they did. in other areas where the Israeli army has reduced its forces.

The military withdrawal from that city comes ahead of an expected Israeli offensive in Rafah, the Strip’s southernmost city, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled fighting elsewhere in search of refuge and which Israel claims is Hamas’s last stronghold.

The city About 1.4 million people live here, more than half of Gaza’s population. And the prospect of an offensive has sparked global concern, including among Israel’s most important ally, The United States, which has called for a credible plan to protect civilians.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sources said that returning people to nearby Khan Younis could ease some of the pressure on Rafah, so evacuating fewer people would make the task easier in the event of an invasion, although many have no homes to go to they could return.

It is also likely that residents returning to Khan Yunis will not be out of danger There must be unexploded bombs in different corners.

Although some of the photos of the enclave level large swathes of the city, others show how a particular critical structure remains standing. For example, a water pumping system appears to be intact among the rubble around it. In the background you can see a UN school that housed displaced people from the Gaza Strip, most of whom were apparently rescued.

Israel withdrew its ground troops from the northern strip months ago but continued to carry out airstrikes and raids in areas where Hamas was said to have regrouped, including the enclave’s largest hospital, Shifa.

Military withdrawal and negotiations

“The army’s decision to withdraw all troops from the south of the Strip is unrelated to hostage-taking agreement negotiations,” a senior officer told Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

When asked whether the withdrawal was not a confidence-building measure to help negotiators who are in Cairo for new talks, they replied that the decision was made for purely operational reasons, based on the security situation in the region, and not because of it American demands were met.

For his part, analyst Amos Harel wrote in the Haaretz newspaper that a high-ranking military commander said that after four months of operations in the Khan Yunis area, the 98th Division realized that large-scale maneuvers were what was happening leads to ever smaller results.

In addition, the fact that many troops remain stationary in the Gaza Strip, rather than deploying them to fight in new areas, puts them at risk because their fixed positions make them targets for terrorist cells, something the military command had long ago realized, noted Harel.

Qatar is optimistic about the negotiations

While negotiations on a temporary ceasefire and hostage agreement are still ongoing in Cairo, mediators say Qatar and also a host of the Hamas leadership in exile be more “optimistic” than in the last few daysQatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Mohamed al-Ansari told the BBC.

“If you ask me whether I am more optimistic today than I was a few days ago, I would say yes,” al-Ansari said.

According to al-Ansari, both Israel and Hamas are closely examining several new proposals. including one written by a US delegation in the conversations that are taking place now.

The spokesman did not specify the content of the various proposals, but said he hoped the first phase of a three-part ceasefire plan could come into force “soon.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded Monday evening by saying that a complete victory over Hamas would require entering the city of Rafah, adding: “It will happen, there is a date.”

“We are constantly working to achieve our goals, the most important of which is the release of all our hostages and the achievement of a complete victory over Hamas,” Netanyahu reiterated.

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