Israeli withdrawal from southern Gaza a prelude to Rafah operation, says Defense Minister

IDF preparing to enter Rafah, says Defense Minister, as Israel withdrawals from Khan Yunis.

By World Israel News Staff

The IDF’s recent withdrawal of forces from the southern Gaza Strip is a prelude to other major operations in the coastal enclave, including the much-anticipated Israeli ground incursion into Rafah, Israel’s defense minister said Sunday.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) held an operation assessment Sunday at the IDF’s southern command headquarters, following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Gaza.

Following the meeting, Gallant said the units which were withdrawn from the southern Gaza Strip are gearing up for new “missions,” including an operation in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Located near the Egyptian border, the strategic city is the primary hub for smuggling efforts from Egypt via underground tunnels.

“The forces were withdrawn and are preparing for their future missions, we saw examples of such missions in action at Shifa, and also for their future mission in the Rafah area,” Gallant said.

“We will reach a situation where Hamas does not control the Gaza Strip and where it does not function as a military framework that poses a risk to the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Earlier on Sunday, IDF sources said that the army’s 98th Division has concluded its mission in Khan Yunis, one of two major population centers in the southern Gaza Strip.

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A significant force led by the 162nd Division and the division’s Nahal Brigade continues to operate in the Gaza Strip, and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations, the sources said.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his pledge that the IDF would operate in Rafah, south of Khan Yunis.“There is no victory without entering Rafah; there is no victory without destroying the Hamas battalions there,” said Netanyahu in a primetime address, adding that the operation “will take time, but it will happen.”