The Israeli military began moving thousands of troops out of Gaza in late December but officials stressed that the IDF would continue operations against Hamas until its goals are achieved, CBS News reported.
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari announced that thousands of soldiers were being moved out of Gaza but did not specify how many were leaving and did not say if the withdrawal meant that Israel was launching a different phase of the war.
In a December 30 press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue fighting until its objectives in the war were achieved, “first and foremost the annihilation of Hamas and the release of all the hostages.”
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that five brigades would be moved out in the coming weeks for rest and training.
The withdrawal of troops could suggest that Israel is scaling back its efforts in some of the densely populated areas of Gaza, most likely in the north where the IDF initially focused its offensive.
In announcing the withdrawal, Rear Adm. Hagari made it clear that the war against Hamas was far from over. He told reporters that Israel’s objectives in the war “require prolonged fighting” and the IDF was “preparing accordingly.”
Hamas rang in the New Year by firing a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv. Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted nearly all of them and no injuries were reported.
Last Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented a possible 4-pronged plan for governing Gaza once Hamas is destroyed.
Under Gallant’s plan, the IDF would maintain military operational freedom. While Hamas would have no control over the region, no Israeli civilian presence would be maintained.
The rebuilding of Gaza would be headed up by a US-led international task force while local Palestinians would be in control of civil affairs. However, Gallant made no mention of the Palestinian Authority, the group that controls the West Bank.
In Gallant’s plan Egypt and other moderate Arab countries would also play a role.