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The end of the battle for Khan Yunis: At a crossroads

IDF in Al-Amal. IDF site

On Sunday, the 98th Division forces left the city of Khan Yunis, after achieving the operational achievements that were required in the city. Hamas’s Khan Yunis brigade was completely overwhelmed during the four months of fighting (since the beginning of December), thousands of terrorists were killed and thousands more wounded or fled; most of the city’s terrorist infrastructure, including headquarters and tunnels, were destroyed by IDF forces and deactivated. The price for the IDF – about 40 fallen soliders.

With the departure of the division, there remains only one Israeli brigade in the Gaza Strip – the Nahal Brigade, which holds the Netzarim corridor, which divides the Gaza Strip into two parts. The official reason for the other IDF forces to leave the Gaza Strip is to prepare for the final move against the last complete brigade of Hamas – the Rafah Brigade in the southern Gaza Strip.

At the same time, international pressure (including from the US) is increasing to avoid action in Rafah, and to reach an agreement for the return of abductees that would include a temporary ceasefire. According to media reports, there have been breakthroughs in negotiations between Israeli representatives and Hamas representatives in Cairo, which may herald the signing of a temporary deal within a few days.

The timing is particularly interesting – a week after the assassination of a senior IRGC official on the outskirts of Damascus, and at the height of Israeli expectation of the Iranian response to this assassination, which may include the use of force from Iran itself. Developments in the Iranian arena make the possibility of an all-out war against Iran’s proxies stronger than ever before, and the army is on record alert for diverting its resources and efforts to the northern front.

In fact, it seems that there is a certain integration between the two dilemmas, in a way that outlines the two paths that are now facing Israel: On the one hand, it is possible to continue the operation in Rafah, with another step to Hamas’ destruction – but at the cost of un-escalating the northern front, at the risk of the remaining hostages’ lives, and under extremely acute international pressures. On the other hand, it is possible to strive for a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza arena, which is integrated into the deal for the release of abductees, while diverting to Israel’s northern front – at the cost of risking that Hamas may not be entirely defeated. It is impossible to achieve everything in geopolitics, and this is a difficult choice; let us hope that our leaders, who hold a more complete picture of the situation, will make the most correct decision for the country.

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