Israel withdraws most troops from Gaza

Military operations still continuing

Israeli tanks pulling out of the Gaza Strip yesterday. Despite the unilateral redeployment, military officials have stressed that “Operation Protective Edge”, in its 28th day, continues. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/the New York Times

Israeli tanks pulling out of the Gaza Strip yesterday. Despite the unilateral redeployment, military officials have stressed that “Operation Protective Edge”, in its 28th day, continues. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/the New York Times

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 07:21

The bulk of Israeli troops have been withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, while others have been redeployed away from populated areas to positions close to the border, just inside Gaza.

Despite the unilateral redeployment, military officials have stressed that “Operation Protective Edge”, in its 28th day, continues and today the army is expected to blow up the last Hamas cross-border tunnel it has discovered.

Army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said troops were still operating.“There is no end in sight,” he said. “The reality on the ground can take us in either direction.” Ten people were killed yesterday in an attack close to a United Nations-run school in Rafah. The school was housing 3,000 residents who had sought shelter from the fighting.

Waiting for food

Eyewitnesses said most of those killed were waiting in line for food supplies when an Israeli missile hit. They said the target of the strike appeared to be two alleged militants, who were riding motorcycles outside the school. They were also killed.

Robert Serry, the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the attack, but did not mention Israel by name. “It is simply intolerable that another school has come under fire while designated to provide shelter for civilians fleeing the hostilities. All parties must respect the inviolability of UN premises and protect civilians.”

A senior Israeli military source said Israel could have conquered Gaza in 10 days and toppled Hamas, but this would have left a Somalia-type situation Israel did not want.

Meanwhile, talks are taking place in Cairo between Egypt and a Palestinian delegation on a long-term ceasefire in return for an easing of the blockade. If the sides reach agreement, a draft will be sent to Israel for approval. If not, an ongoing war of attrition is a distinct possibility.

Palestinian fatalities have risen to almost 1,800. In addition 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed. Militants continued firing rockets into Israel yesterday, including a barrage at Tel Aviv. Some 15,000 mourners attended the funeral of Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin (23), who was declared missing after a clash near Rafah on Friday. Israel believed militants had seized him, but on Saturday night the army informed the family that he was dead.