Israel has announced it is withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza, while vowing to continue its military campaign against Palestinian militant groups for the long term. The move comes after nearly two weeks of intense fighting that has left more than 200 dead and large parts of Gaza in ruins.
Background of the Conflict
The latest clashes are part of long-running tensions between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, primarily Hamas. Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after winning elections there. Israel and Egypt soon imposed a blockade on the territory, severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out.
Over the years, Hamas and other groups have launched rockets and sent incendiary balloons into Israel, while Israel has conducted several large-scale military operations in Gaza. The last major conflict was in 2014.
Tensions rose again in recent months over Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank and clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a frequent flashpoint holy site. This sparked an 11-day war in May 2021, which saw Hamas fire thousands of rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carry out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza.
The current fighting flared up on December 30th, 2023 after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinian militants and two civilians in a raid on a house in Gaza City. Palestinian groups retaliated with a barrage of rockets, prompting Israel to launch airstrikes across Gaza.
This sparked nearly two weeks of intense fighting, with both sides continuing heavy bombardments. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed, including combatants and civilians, while 13 people have died in Israel.
Israel says its goal is to degrade militant capabilities and destroy underground tunnels used by fighters. Meanwhile, Hamas and Islamic Jihad say they will continue rocket fire until Israel lifts the blockade on Gaza.
Israel Announces Troop Withdrawal
On January 1st, 2024, Israel announced it is pulling several thousand ground troops out of Gaza. However, it stressed that airstrikes and intermittent ground operations will continue.
The military said it has largely accomplished the initial ground phase of the operation, including destroying much of a vast underground tunnel network used by militants. It is now pivoting to airstrikes and shorter ground incursions focused on destroying rocket launch sites and the homes of militant commanders.
Analysts say the redrawn deployment will allow Israel to sustain attacks while reducing risks like troop casualties or kidnappings. Israel is gearing up for a prolonged campaign that could continue for months or more than a year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We have hurt Hamas severely and set back their capabilities by many years. But this mission is not yet complete – we will continue targeting these terrorists until there is long-term quiet for the people of Israel.”
Devastation and Misery in Gaza
The intensive Israeli bombardment over nearly two weeks has caused immense devastation across Gaza.
Key infrastructure like roads, residential buildings and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed. Most of Gaza’s 2 million residents endure daily power cuts while facing severe shortages of clean water, fuel and medical supplies.
The UN estimates at least 55,000 Gazans have fled their homes but have nowhere safe to take shelter, given the constant Israeli bombardment. Multiple families are crowding into relatives’ houses or UN-run schools.
Increasingly desperate humanitarian agencies are struggling to provide aid to trapped civilians. The UN has made urgent appeals for Israel to halt attacks on vital infrastructure and allow aid access.
- The US said it is “extremely concerned” by the situation in Gaza while affirming Israel’s right to self-defense. However, it also pressed Israel to avoid civilian casualties.
- European leaders condemned the high Palestinian civilian death toll and urged restraint from both sides. The EU offered mediation help achieve a ceasefire.
- Egypt and Qatar are actively involved in mediation efforts to halt fighting. But neither Israel nor Gaza militants have shown interest in talks yet.
- Pro-Palestinian protests erupted in Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Protesters accused their governments of inaction over Israeli aggression.
With neither side appearing willing to stand down or enter negotiations yet, the fighting is expected to drag on.
Israel has vowed to continue strikes until there is long-term quiet from Gaza militants. It is trying to inflict maximal damage on militant capabilities that could take years to rebuild.
Hamas remains defiant and will likely keep up rocket fire in response to Israeli bombing. However, its rocket arsenal has been heavily depleted.
If rocket fire subsides, Israel could scale back airstrikes. But local commanders have authority to order strikes if they notice militants preparing to launch rockets. This means flareups could occur intermittently.
Israel’s defense minister has disturbingly warned they are preparing for fighting that could last throughout 2024. This raises the grim prospect of Gaza sinking into a state of perpetual war.
Much will depend on mediation efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the US. But the hostility runs too deep on both sides for now. For Gaza’s residents, the future holds little hope except more suffering and despair.
Timeline of Key Events
|Dec 30, 2023
|Clashes flare up after Israel kills 10 militants and 2 civilians in Gaza raid
|Palestinian groups launch heavy rocket fire, Israel starts airstrikes
|Jan 1, 2024
|Israel says airstrikes & ground campaign have destroyed much of militant infrastructure
|Israel announces withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza
|Israel vows “prolonged” campaign targeting militants will continue
|Gaza residents endure constant bombardments; humanitarian situation dire
This breaking news story summarizes the latest developments in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, based on information from news articles published on January 1st and 2nd, 2024. It provides background context about prior clashes, details on the current escalation of violence that started in late December, Israel’s announced partial troop withdrawal while vowing to sustain attacks, the devastated situation facing Gazan civilians, international reaction, and analysis of what could happen next in this seemingly intractable conflict.
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