Israel pressured to reduce troops in south Gaza

Egypt to host new round of talks with Israel and Hamas; Gaza devastated by six months of war.

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Sunday it had withdrawn more soldiers from southern Gaza, leaving just one brigade, as it and Hamas sent teams to Egypt for fresh talks over a potential ceasefire in the six-month conflict.
Israel has been reducing numbers in Gaza since the start of the year to relieve reservists and is under growing pressure from its ally Washington to improve the humanitarian situation, especially after last week’s killing of┬áseven aid workers.
The military spokesperson did not give details on reasons for withdrawing soldiers or numbers involved.
Both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, confirmed they were sending delegations to Egypt.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would not bend to foreign pressure and give in to “extreme demands”.
A Hamas leader, Basem Naim, blamed him.
“Netanyahu is still stalling to save himself from failure and the responsibility for the day after the battle. It seems that the U.S. pressure is not enough to compel him to go for a complete and comprehensive ceasefire,” said Naim.
Hamas says an agreement must secure a complete and comprehensive ceasefire, full withdrawal of forces from areas occupied after Oct. 7, and freedom of movement of residents across the Gaza Strip.
More than 250 hostages were seized and some 1,200 people killed during Hamas’ 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.
It was unclear whether the troop reduction in south Gaza would delay a long-threatened incursion into the city of Rafah, which Netanyahu says is needed to eliminate Hamas but anxious foreign powers have said could wreak an unacceptable toll on civilians.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the troop reduction appeared to be a “rest and refit” and not necessarily indicative of any new operations.

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