Israel increases strikes in Gaza after announcement of troop cutback

Khan Younis in the south of the enclave was hit in an intense bombardment

Israeli army soldiers stand guard at a position near the Israeli-Gaza border, as smoke rises above Shujaiya in the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel. EPA
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Israeli forces stepped up strikes in southern Gaza on Tuesday after announcing plans to pull back some troops, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians in the enclave as the war nears its fourth month.

In the occupied West Bank, four Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces amid an increase in violence and arrests since the Gaza war began on October 7.

Residents in Gaza told The National that Israeli planes and tanks struck Khan Younis in the south of the enclave on Tuesday morning.

“Israeli air strikes struck fiercely in the central and eastern areas of Khan Younis, with artillery shelling hitting the northern neighbourhoods of the city, resulting in civilian casualties, including children and women,” reported Palestinian agency Wafa.

“Nine civilians lost their lives, and dozens were injured in Khan Younis due to Israeli air strikes,” it added.

In central Gaza, about 15 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and others injured on Monday night in an Israeli air strike on a house in the city of Deir Al Balah.

Recent strikes come after an Israeli official said that forces inside Gaza would be reduced this month and shifted to a months-long phase of more “mopping up” operations after almost 90 days of relentless fighting.

Residents of Sheikh Radwan district in Gaza city, in the northern part of the enclave, said tanks had withdrawn after what they described as the most intense ten days of warfare since the conflict began.

Tanks also pulled out of Al Mina district and parts of Tel Al Hawa while retaining some positions in the suburb controlling the enclave's main coastal road.

Washington has been urging Israel to reduce the intensity of its military operation amid international calls for a ceasefire.

According to local health authorities, more than 21,900 Palestinians have been killed, including 9,200 children and 6,600 women, since the war began.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian security sources told Wafa that “four Palestinians were shot dead during confrontations that erupted as Israeli occupation forces stormed the town” of Azzun, in the northern province of Qalqilya.

The Israeli military said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that soldiers on a counter-terrorism operation killed “four armed militants” who had fired at them from a house in Azzun. An Israeli soldier was wounded in the exchange.

In Qalqilya, soldiers shot and killed a man who opened fire at them, the military said.

The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and tension has escalated since the current outbreak of fighting in Gaza.

About 317 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and settlers in the West Bank since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah.

The Commission and the Palestinian Prisoner's Society said that Abdul Rahman Bassem Al-Bahsh, 23, from Nablus, was killed in Israel's Majdou prison.

He has been detained since May 31, 2022, and has been sentenced to prison for 35 months.

The detainee was the first Palestinian “killed by Israeli forces on the first day 2024 and the seventh in the occupation prisons since October 2023,” the PPS said.

Israeli forces also conducted multiple raids in the West Bank, including arresting a teacher in Jericho at dawn and seizing her electronic devices. At least 11 were detained in Hebron Governorate in a series of raids. Another three people were arrested in the occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel says it has arrested about 2,550 people in the occupied West Bank since the outbreak of the Gaza war, but the UN says the figure is much higher, reporting the detention of around 4,785 Palestinians.

Updated: January 02, 2024, 11:00 AM