Israel withdraws all ground troops from southern Gaza, leaving just one IDF brigade in the enclave

Israel announced a major troops withdrawal from southern Gaza on Sunday even as PM Netanyahu promised the war would continue until Hamas is eradicated.

Israel withdraws all ground troops from southern Gaza, leaving just one IDF brigade in the enclave

The Israel Defense Forces announced a full withdrawal of ground forces from southern Gaza on Sunday, leaving a smaller force to maintain operations in the whole of the strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also delivered remarks at the beginning of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, reiterating that Israel would not agree to any cease-fire unless Hamas frees all remaining hostages. The bulk of the troops withdrawing in the coming days will be leaving Khan Younis, which had served as Hamas' central bastion in the south.

"Today, Sunday April 7th, the IDF’s 98th commando division has concluded its mission in Khan Yunis. The division left the Gaza strip in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations," the IDF said in a statement.

"A significant force led by the 162nd division and the Nahal brigade continues to operate in the Gaza strip, and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations," the statement continued.

Netanyahu promised his cabinet that the war in Gaza would continue, however, arguing that "there is no war more just than this one."

"I have made it clear to the international community: There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It simply will not happen. This is the policy of the Government of Israel and I welcome the fact that the Biden administration made it clear on Friday that this is still its position as well," Netanyahu said.

"I would like to clarify something else: It is not Israel that is preventing a deal. Hamas is preventing a deal. Its extreme demands are designed to bring about a ceasefire and leave it intact, to ensure its survival, existence and ability to endanger our citizens and soldiers. Capitulation to Hamas's demands would allow it to try and repeat the crimes of October 7 again and again, as it has promised to do," he added.

Israel's retaliatory war against Hamas entered its sixth month on Sunday, and there remains no end in sight.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said last week that Hamas has "ceased to function as a military organization in most parts of the Gaza Strip," but there remains work to be done elsewhere.

The IDF has been pressing for weeks to invade Rafah, a town bordering Egypt that plays host to roughly 1 million displaced Palestinians and, Israel says, the last vestiges of Hamas.

Biden and Netanyahu remain starkly opposed on plans to invade the region, however, with the U.S. fearing it could come at a vast cost in civilian lives.