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Palestinians returning to Khan Younis after Israeli withdrawal find an unrecognizable city

BY The Associated Press, Apr 8, 2024 7:28 PM - REPORT AN ERROR

Those returning found their hometown, Gaza’s second largest city, unrecognizable, with thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Streams of Palestinians filed into the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Monday to salvage what they could from thevast destructionleft in the wake of Israel’s offensive, a day after the Israeli military announced it waswithdrawing troops from the area.

Those returning found their hometown, Gaza’s second largest city, unrecognizable, with thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged. Men, women and children went down streets bulldozed into stretches of dirt, searching for their homes among fields of rubble and debris that were once blocks of apartments and businesses. On other blocks, buildings still stood but were gutted shells, scorched and full of holes, with partially shattered upper floors dangling off precipitously.

The scenes of destruction in Khan Younis underscored what has beenone of world’s most destructive and lethalmilitary assaults in recent decades, which has left vast swaths of the tiny coastal territory unlivable for its 2.3 million people. It also portended what is likely to happen inGaza’s southernmost town of Rafah, where half of Gaza’s uprooted population is now crowded, if Israel goes ahead with plans to invade it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalated his pledge to invade Rafah, declaring in a video statement Monday, “It will happen. There is a date,” without elaborating. He spoke as Israeli negotiators were in Cairo discussing international efforts to broker a cease-fire deal with Hamas.

Magdy Abu Sahrour was stunned seeing his house in Khan Younis flattened.

“I couldn’t find my home because of all the destruction,” he said as he stood in front of the rubble. “Where is my place, where is my home? … It’s a tragic situation.”

Israel sent troops into Khan Younis in December, part of its blistering ground offensive that came in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and hostage-taking into southern Israel. Its withdrawal brought Israeli troops in the tiny coastal enclave to one of the lowest since the war began.

The war, nowin its seventh month, has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to local health authorities. Israeli authorities say 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and roughly 250 people takenhostagein Hamas’ Oct.

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