Israel troop reduction in Gaza does not mean new strategy

Israel troop reduction in Gaza does not mean new strategy

U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2024.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

National security spokesman John Kirby said Sunday that Israel’s decision to withdraw some troops from the southern Gaza Strip does not appear to indicate a change in military strategy.

“From our understanding and their public announcements, it’s really just about rest and recovery for these troops who have been on the ground for four months, and not necessarily – we can say this – as an indication of a new operation on the horizon,” Kirby said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “We hear that they are tired and need to be renewed.”

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday that it had “completed its mission” in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis and that it was reducing its military troops in that region “to recover and prepare for future operations.”

The move comes six months after Hamas’ October 7 attack. The Biden administration has ratcheted up its rhetoric against Israel’s military behavior, sparked by an Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers at the charity World Central Kitchen.

In a phone call Thursday, President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the attacks and humanitarian conditions in the war were “unacceptable,” a White House summary said. He also stressed that the future of US policy will be determined by Israel’s “immediate” actions to address civilian harm and humanitarian suffering.

“We became increasingly frustrated,” Kirby said Sunday.

However, he added in a separate interview that the White House did not know what the next military step would be after IDF forces leave Khan Younis and complete their “rest and re-equipment period.”

Some national security experts see this as a potential turning point in the war, although the direction of that turn remains unclear.

“I think this is a turning point in the campaign in Gaza,” Michael Horowitz, intelligence director at security consulting firm Le Beck International, told NBC News.

He said no troops are currently moving in to replace withdrawing troops in Khan Younis, potentially signaling a more targeted military approach that the U.S. has been calling for months. He added that replacing these troops could mean that “Israel launches a new offensive, for example against Rafah.”

“What they’re going to do with these troops after they’re restored and retooled, I can’t say,” Kirby said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I can only say what I have already said: we do not support a major ground operation in Rafah. Nothing changed about that.”

Source link

2024-04-07 16:19:37