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Khan Younis Devastation: Palestinians Return After Israeli Withdrawal

The article discusses the aftermath of Israel’s withdrawal of troops from Khan Younis, a city in Gaza, following a prolonged offensive against Hamas. Palestinians returned to find their city devastated, with buildings destroyed, streets demolished, and essential infrastructure damaged.

Israel’s military intervention in Khan Younis was part of a larger ground offensive initiated after a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, resulting in significant civilian casualties and displacements.

The war, spanning seven months, has taken a heavy toll on the Palestinian population, with over 33,000 reported deaths, primarily women and children, and most of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants displaced. Many areas in Khan Younis have become uninhabitable due to the extensive destruction caused by the conflict, leaving residents like Mahmoud Abdel-Ghani shocked to find their homes reduced to rubble upon returning.

Israel’s withdrawal from Khan Younis marks a crucial phase in its campaign against Hamas, reducing troop levels in the region significantly. The city was regarded as a key Hamas stronghold, and Israel claims to have dealt significant blows to Hamas militants and infrastructure during its operations, including destroying tunnels and releasing hostages allegedly held by the group.

Khan Younis Devastation: Palestinians Return After Israeli Withdrawal

Khan Younis Devastation: Palestinians Return After Israeli Withdrawal (Credits: Oregon Public Broadcasting)

With the absence of an Israeli military presence, there are concerns that Hamas may attempt to regroup in Khan Younis, a pattern observed in other areas where Israeli forces have scaled back. However, the withdrawal has allowed some Palestinians to return to salvage belongings from the debris, although the extent of damage makes it difficult for many, like Najwa Ayyash, to access their former residences.

Residents who managed to retrieve belongings described the city as transformed into a landscape of destruction, with little semblance of normal life remaining. Bassel Abu Nasser, whose home was destroyed by an airstrike, lamented the desolation of Khan Younis, emphasizing the absence of life amidst the ruins.

The departure of Israeli troops from Khan Younis precedes anticipated military actions in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city and Hamas’s purported last major stronghold. Rafah, already overwhelmed by displaced populations, faces the threat of further devastation, prompting global concern, including from Israel’s ally, the U.S., regarding civilian safety amidst potential offensive operations.

Khan Younis Devastation: Palestinians Return After Israeli Withdrawal

Khan Younis Devastation: Palestinians Return After Israeli Withdrawal (Credits: WBTW)

While allowing some relief for displaced individuals, the return to Khan Younis poses challenges, with many lacking habitable homes and the pervasive danger of unexploded ordnance. Moreover, critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, has been targeted during the conflict, leaving facilities like Nasser Hospital vulnerable and in need of reconstruction.

Israel maintains its objective of dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities and governance structures while also seeking the release of hostages through negotiations brokered by international mediators. The ongoing conflict underscores the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with efforts toward a ceasefire and reconstruction crucial for restoring stability and addressing the needs of the civilian population affected by the protracted violence.

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