The intensive phase of Israel’s war with Hamas militants in southern Gaza will end soon, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday, as the army confirmed a division deployed there had pulled out.
The army had stepped up military operations and bombardments in the southern cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah in recent weeks after saying Hamas’s military structures in the north had been dismantled.
“We made it clear that the intensive maneuvering stage would last for approximately three months,” Gallant told a news conference.
He said the stage was already being reached in the northern Gaza Strip.
“In southern Gaza, we will reach this achievement and it will end soon, and in both places, the moment will come when we will move to the next phase,” he said, without specifying a time frame.
Israel launched its ground operation in the Gaza Strip on October 27.
The army said on its website an entire division of soldiers had completed their withdrawal from Gaza on Monday, after having “eliminated hundreds of terrorists” and destroyed kilometers of tunnels in central and northern areas of the Palestinian territory.
Israel had four divisions operating in Gaza before Monday’s announced withdrawal, though it was unclear how many soldiers were involved in the pullout.
The war broke out after Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also seized about 250 hostages on October 7, 132 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza, including at least 25 believed to have been killed.
Israel responded by bombarding the territory by land, sea, and air, killing more than 24,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.