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Israel Withdraws Troops From Southern Gaza as War Hits 6-Month Mark

The Israeli military said Sunday that it had withdrawn a division of ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, as international mediators gathered with hopes of brokering a temporary cease-fire six months into a war that has now become the longest involving Israel since the 1980s.

Israel has significantly reduced the number of troops it has on the ground in Gaza over the past several months. Only a fraction of the soldiers that it deployed in the territory earlier in the war against Hamas remain.

Now, the last group of Israeli soldiers in the southern city of Khan Younis has left Gaza in order “to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” the army said. The withdrawal of the soldiers, members of the 98th Division, means that no Israeli troops are actively maneuvering in southern Gaza, the Israeli news media reported.

But Israeli officials made clear that the army would stay in other parts of Gaza to preserve its “freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations.”

The drawdown from Khan Younis, about four months after Israeli forces invaded southern Gaza, raised questions about Israel’s plans in the face of widespread calls for it to de-escalate the conflict. It was also unclear what it might signal about Israel’s oft-stated plan to invade the southernmost city of Rafah, where more than a million have fled to escape the fighting.

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