US official: Biden admin pushed Israel for lower-intensity fighting in Gaza, troop withdrawal

Israel’s plans to withdraw some forces from combat in the Gaza Strip appear to signal that Israel is shifting to lower-intensity fighting in the Palestinian enclave, a move the Biden administration has been pushing for, a US official tells NBC News.

The official notes that fighting is still happening in northern Gaza and there were no immediate changes to operations in southern Gaza.

The IDF said Sunday it was beginning to release five brigades from combat in Gaza, as the military increasingly gains control on the ground.

On Monday, Israeli military officials said they were preparing for residents of some Gaza border communities that have largely been empty since October 7 to begin returning home soon, amid further indications the fighting was shifting into a lower gear in the northern part of the Strip, after three months of punishing all-out war.

Israelis in communities within seven kilometers (4.3 miles) of Gaza were mostly evacuated in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 assault on southern Israel by the terror group, which rules the Strip, when terrorists massacred 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped some 240 people to Gaza.

Israel responded to the October 7 massacres with a military campaign – including a major ground incursion – aimed at destroying Hamas, removing it from power in Gaza, and rescuing the hostages.

The military said it believes the war against the terror group will likely continue throughout 2024, and said it was prepared for lengthy fighting, though in different phases from the high-intensity campaign it has waged so far.

The chief of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, said earlier Monday that the fighting in Gaza “will continue in a variety of methods, in a variety of intensities, and in varying forms.”

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said last week that the military is expanding its operations in southern and central Gaza as it is close to dismantling all of Hamas’s battalions in the northern part of the Strip, but he warned that the war will last “many more months.”

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