Israel starts new phase of war with ‘fewer’ troops and strikes

The Israeli military has begun a new and less intense phase of its invasion of Gaza, its chief spokesman said Monday, after weeks of pressure from the US and other allies to scale back an offensive that has caused widespread devastation and civilian deaths.
The spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the Israeli campaign had already started the transition to a campaign that would involve fewer ground troops and airstrikes.”The war shifted a stage,” Hagari told NYT. “But the transition will be with no ceremony. It’s not about dramatic announcements,” he added.
Hagari said Israel would continue to reduce the number of troops in Gaza, a process that began this month. Indicating that Israel has degraded Hamas’s military capabilities in northern Gaza, Hagari said that the military would now focus on the group’s southern and central strongholds, particularly around the cities of Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah. He said Israel was also aiming to allow more humanitarian aid, including tents to house displaced people, into Gaza.
His comments came hours before Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, was scheduled to arrive in Israel as part of a multistop tour of West Asia aimed at preventing the Gaza conflict from escalating into a broader regional war. On Monday, he was holding talks in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
But it was far from clear that the new phase of Israel’s offensive would be less dangerous for Gazan civilians. Gazan health officials are still reporting scores of deaths every day in airstrikes. On Monday, they reported the highest daily death toll so far this year with 247 people killed overnight. Israeli forces bombarded the southern city of Khan Younis and central Gaza amid clashes in those areas, residents said.
Meanwhile in the US, responding to protesters shouting “Ceasefire now”, President Biden said he had been working quietly with Israel to encourage it to reduce its attacks and “significantly get out of Gaza”. Protesters interrupted his speech at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where a white supremacist gunned down nine black parishioners in 2015.
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