Accessibility links

Breaking News

Israeli Military to Withdraw Some Forces From Gaza


This handout picture released by the Israeli army on Jan. 1, 2024 shows Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by Israeli Army / AFP)
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on Jan. 1, 2024 shows Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by Israeli Army / AFP)

Israel said Monday it is withdrawing some soldiers from the Gaza Strip for training and rest as it looks to prepare for what officials have said will be a war against Hamas that will go on for months.

Army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that some reservists would be going back to Israel this week.

"This will significantly ease the burden on the economy and allow them to gather strength for the upcoming activities in the next year, as the fighting will continue and they will still be required,” Hagari said.

Israel has been under pressure from the United States, its top ally, to shift to lower-intensity operations in Gaza and to protect civilians.

Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets Monday, prompting air raid sirens to sound across Israel.

There were no reports of damage or casualties from the rockets, which Hamas has continued to use to target Israel as Israeli forces carry out an offensive to eliminate Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli military actions in Gaza continued Monday with ground operations and airstrikes, including what the Israel Defense Forces said was a strike that killed a Hamas commander who helped lead the fighters responsible for the Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel.

The IDF identified the commander as Adel Mesmah, and said he also helped lead Hamas fighters against Israeli forces in Gaza after Israel launched its offensive.

British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said Sunday that the U.K. “won’t hesitate to take further action to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea,” after a series of attacks by Houthi militants that have disrupted traffic in the key waterway.

“The Houthis should be under no misunderstanding: we are committed to holding malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks,” Shapps wrote in The Telegraph.

U.S. forces on Sunday sunk three Houthi boats in response to an attack by the Iran-backed militants on a Maersk container ship in the Red Sea.

U.S. Central Command said the Houthis fired on the Maersk Hangzhou and attempted to board it. U.S. Navy helicopters responding to a distress call from the Maersk Hangzhou also came under fire, and in return sank the Houthi boats while a fourth escaped the area.

The Houthis said 10 of their fighters were killed.

The Yemen-based group has targeted ships in the Red Sea in a show of support for Hamas, the Gaza-based militants who attacked Israel in October and prompted Israel to respond with an offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas.

The Israeli campaign to crush Hamas has left vast parts of the Gaza Strip in ruins. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said the Israeli offensive has killed more than 21,800 people. The ministry does not differentiate between militants and civilians, but says 70% of those killed were women and children.

Israel began its military campaign vowing to crush Hamas after the October attack when Israel said about 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken hostage, with 129 believed still held by Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli military says 172 of its military personnel have been killed so far in the fighting.

Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and others.

About 85% of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations. The U.N. has warned of the increased risk of hunger and disease as desperate families shelter in makeshift tents against the winter cold.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said nearly 1.8 million people are sheltering in or in the vicinity of its overcrowded installations in Gaza. The agency has also reported damage from attacks hitting 128 of its sites, with 142 of its personnel killed.

Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.