IDF approves next phase of fighting in southern Gaza

More precise operations yield results, military says as forces pull out after intense five month-long battles; commanders say terrorists in area cut off from their chain of command and nearly 85% of their infrastructure is already destroyed

The IDF fighting in the area of Khan Younis has entered the third and less intense stage with the withdrawal of some of the forces from the Strip. The military said it is conducting targeted operations on Hamas strongholds that have already suffered severe blows since the war began in October.
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On Friday, three IDF soldiers were killed and 14 others injured when they entered a booby- trapped building on what has become a logistic route that was thought to be under the Israeli forces control.
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לוחמי יחידת הניוד ברצועת עזה
לוחמי יחידת הניוד ברצועת עזה
Wounded soldiers being treated in Gaza after Hamas-rigged building blows up killing three
(Photo: Ziv Koren)
IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the incident occurred during an "operation to scan for terrorist infrastructure."
"Two devices exploded in a building a few kilometers from the border," he said, adding "We are working on counterterrorism. The readiness for Ramadan is high." He said the operation in the south of the Strip, like that in the north, no longer requires mass deployment of troops. The more precise raids have yielded results.
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לוחמי יחידת אגוז בלחימה בחאן יונס
לוחמי יחידת אגוז בלחימה בחאן יונס
Commando troops operate in Khan Younis
(Photo: IDF)
But as previously reported, holding on to the logistical corridor that had cut the Strip from west to east, is a challenge compounded by the return of civilians.
The IDF sees itself responsible for the civilian population in areas under its control, according to international law, including the supply of food, water and medicine.
The military is also aware that although there has been no sign yet of civilian uprising against the troops, that possibility exists, as history has shown, amid the vacuum left in areas where Hamas had lost its governing abilities.
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הצנחת חבילות סיוע הומניטרי מעל רפיח
הצנחת חבילות סיוע הומניטרי מעל רפיח
Humanitarian aid dropped into Gaza
( Photo: Aline Manoukian / AFP)
Senior commanders also note the shortage in engineering corps troops and abilities after five months of fighting with many buildings rigged by Hamas to explode and underground tunnels to be exposed, surveilled and put out of action.
"Hamas terrorists still in Khan Younis are cut off from their chain of command and an estimated 85% of the infrastructure there destroyed," one commander said. "What they are doing now is mostly defensive," he said.
The forces have observed more displaced civilians pitching tents near the Egyptian border as troops prevent their move back into the refugee camps west of Khan Younis.
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