Israel withdraws from Khan Younis ahead of expected Rafah offensive

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2024

Israeli leaders were preparing Monday for military operations in Gaza's southern city of Rafah, where most of the Palestinian territory's population has fled after six months of fighting.

A man stands by the rubble of a destroyed building in Khan Yunis on April 7, 2024 after Israel pulled its ground forces out of the southern Gaza Strip.AFP


Talks in Cairo aimed at brokering a truce have made "significant progress", with more negotiations expected in the coming days, Egyptian Al-Qahera reported Monday.

Israel pulled its forces out of the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.

But Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said troops had left the city of Khan Yunis "to prepare for future missions, including... in Rafah".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was "one step away from victory".

After troops left areas in and around the largely destroyed Khan Yunis, a stream of displaced Palestinians walked there, hoping to return to their homes from temporary shelters in Rafah, a little further south.

Muhammad Yunis, 51, a Palestinian in northern Gaza, saw nothing but loss.

"Isn't the bombing, death and destruction enough?" he asked. "There are bodies still under the rubble. We can smell the stench."

Cairo talks

In Cairo, Al-Qahera reported "significant progress being made on several contentious points of agreement", citing a high-ranking Egyptian source.

The outlet said Qatari and Hamas delegations had left Cairo and were expected to return "within two days to finalise the terms of the agreement".

US and Israeli delegations were due to leave the Egyptian capital "in the next few hours" and consultations were expected to continue over the next 48 hours, it added.

In a speech to mark six months of the war, Netanyahu told his cabinet that "Israel is ready for a deal", adding that "there will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages".

Israel's 98th commando division withdrew from Khan Yunis and left Gaza "in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations," the army told AFP.

Maha Thaer, a mother of four returning to Khan Yunis, said she would move back into her badly damaged apartment, "even though it is not suitable for living, but it is better than tents".

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