Israel withdrawing some units from Gaza

TEL AVIV — Israel says five of its military brigades, including many reservists, will be withdrawing from the Gaza Strip this week in an effort to pace itself for an expected long-term conflict and to mitigate damage to Israel’s economy.

The Israel Defense Forces said the 828th Brigade, 261st Brigade and 460th Brigade, composed of active duty troops, will all return to their normal training missions. The 551st Brigade and 14th Brigade, comprising reservists, will be allowed to go home and resume their normal jobs, the IDF said.  

Yet the military took pains to signal that the withdrawal of those brigades did not mean an end to active, intensive combat in Gaza or any reduction in Israel’s mission there. Israel has been under intense global pressure to scale back the war but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a national address over the weekend that the war would continue for “many more months.” 

“The goals of the war require prolonged fighting and we are preparing accordingly,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters. 

Hagari said allowing reservists to come home would “allow considerable relief for the economy and allow them to gather strength for the next activities in the coming year, and the fighting will continue and we will still need them.”

All told, the number likely amounts to thousands of troops leaving Gaza at least temporarily. Israel hasn’t disclosed how many troops are fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Shortly after the war started, Israel called some 300,000 reservists into service, many of whom are now fighting in Gaza. That move has had serious implications for Israel’s economy, with many businesses forced to shut down or reduce operations after losing much of their workforce.

An Israeli soldier carries a heavy shell past battle tanks deployed at a position along the border with the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on Dec. 31, 2023.
An Israeli soldier carries a heavy shell Sunday past tanks deployed at a position along the border with the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.Menahem Kahana / AFP – Getty Images

Hagari also said that the IDF was “adjusting” its policies around use of force to help minimize civilian casualties.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has said that more than 21,000 people in Gaza have been killed since the war began. Israel has been criticized for civilian casualties, and the U.S. has said that the number of civilians killed and injured there has been too high.

Israel has said it takes steps to warn civilians and minimize casualties, but that Hamas intentionally places itself in civilian areas and uses civilians as human shields.

The war began when Hamas on Oct. 7 launched surprise attacks on Israel that killed more than 1,200 people there. Hamas also took hostages.

Israel said on Sunday that 129 people are still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.


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