This handout picture released by the Israeli army on March 27, 2024 shows troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AFP

JERUSALEM: Israel on Sunday pulled all its troops out of southern Gaza, including from the city of Khan Younis, the military and an army official said, after months of fierce fighting with Hamas militants left the area devastated.

“Today, Sunday April 7th, the IDF’s 98th commando division has concluded its mission in Khan Younis. The division left the Gaza Strip in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” the army said in a statement to AFP.

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Asked by AFP whether this meant all troops have left south Gaza, he said: “Yes.”

The military did not immediately provide further details. It was unclear whether the withdrawal would delay a long-threatened incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which Israeli leaders have said is needed to eliminate Hamas.

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The withdrawal comes as Egypt prepares to host a new round of talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza, launched after the attack by Hamas on Israel six months ago on Oct. 7, has focused in the past months on the south of the Palestinian enclave.

Rafah has become the last refuge for more than a million Palestinians sheltering in the territory near the border with Egypt.

More than 250 hostages were seized and some 1,200 people killed during the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 33,100 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

An Israeli brigade is typically made up of a few thousand troops.