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Kirby calls Israeli troop movement in southern Gaza ‘rest and refit,’ not withdrawal

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby said Sunday that reports have indicated to him that the Israeli troop movement in southern Gaza amounts more to a “rest and refit” than a full withdrawal of troops, as some reports have indicated.

“The indications that we’ve been getting from them this morning is, this is really largely rest and refit for troops that have been on the ground consecutively now for four months and, they need a chance to come – to come out now,” Kirby said in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” when asked about reports of a troop withdrawal from the Gaza city of Khan Younis.

“What they’ll do with those troops after a rest and refit, I can’t speak to,” Kirby continued.

Kirby’s remarks come as Israel’s military announced Sunday it had withdrawn its forces from Khan Younis, wrapping up a key phase in its ground offensive against Hamas and bringing its troop presence in the territory to one of the lowest levels since the six-month war began, The Associated Press reported.

Defense officials, however, maintained that troops were merely regrouping as the army prepares to move into Hamas’s last stronghold, Rafah.

“The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” said Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Israel’s military chief, the AP reported.

In the Sunday interview, Kirby reiterated the United States’s position against any ground military operation in Rafah, which houses more than half of Gaza’s population and remains one of the last remaining targets for Israel in its effort to eradicate Hamas’s infrastructure.

Concerns about the humanitarian impact of such an operation have prompted a global outcry.

“All I can do is say what I said before,” Kirby continued. “We don’t support a major ground operation in Rafah. That has not changed. And we’re looking forward to having conversations with the Israelis about alternatives to those kinds of operations.”

Kirby also said in the interview that U.S. officials were in discussions about scheduling an in-person meeting with their Israeli counterparts, after holding a virtual meeting this past week, focused on alternatives to a ground operation in Rafah.

Source: The Hill

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