Israeli troops fight back into Gaza’s Khan Younis as bodies recovered from reported mass graves

Head of Israeli military intelligence resigns over failures in lead up to October 7th Hamas attack

Israeli troops fought their way back into an eastern section of Khan Younis in a surprise raid, residents said on Monday, sending people who had returned to abandoned homes in the ruins of the southern Gaza Strip’s main city fleeing once more.

Elsewhere in Khan Younis, scores more bodies were recovered from what Palestinian authorities said were mass graves on the site of the city’s main hospital, abandoned by Israeli troops. Further south there were fresh air strikes on Rafah, the last refuge where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people have sought shelter.

Israel abruptly pulled most of its ground troops out of the southern Gaza Strip this month after some of the most intense fighting of the seven-month-old war. Residents have begun making their way home to previously inaccessible neighbourhoods of what had been the enclave’s second-biggest city, finding homes reduced to rubble and unrecovered dead in the streets.

“This morning many families who had left here in the past two weeks to go back home to Abassan came back. They were too frightened,” Ahmed Rezik (42) said from a school where he was sheltering in the western part of Khan Younis, referring to a district in the east.


“They said tanks pushed into the eastern area of the town under heavy fire, and they had to run for their lives,” he said via a chat app.

Earlier on Monday, the head of Israeli military intelligence resigned after accepting responsibility for the failures that allowed the devastating Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7th, the military said.

Maj Gen Aharon Haliva, a 38-year veteran of the military, was one of a number of senior Israeli commanders who said they had failed to foresee and prevent the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.

“The intelligence division under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I have carried that black day with me ever since,” he said in a resignation letter released by the military.

He will remain in post until a successor is named. Israeli media and commentators expect further resignations once the main military campaign in Gaza wraps up.

The October 7th attack badly tarnished the reputation of the Israeli military and intelligence services, previously seen as virtually unbeatable by armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas.

In the early hours of the morning, following an intense rocket barrage, thousands of fighters from Hamas and other groups broke through security barriers around Gaza, surprising Israeli forces and rampaging through communities in southern Israel.

Some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed in the attack, most of them civilians, and about 250 were taken into captivity in Gaza, where 133 remain as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded by launching a ground assault on Gaza, vowing to annihilate Hamas. More than 34,000 people have since been confirmed killed according to Gaza health authorities, with thousands more bodies feared lost in the rubble.

The head of the armed forces, Lieut Gen Herzi Halevi, and the head of the domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, both accepted responsibility in the aftermath of the attack but have stayed on while the war in Gaza has continued.

By contrast, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has so far not accepted responsibility for the October 7th attack, although surveys indicate that most Israelis blame him for failing to do enough to prevent or defend against it.

In the ruins of what had been Nasser hospital, the biggest in southern Gaza, Reuters on Monday saw emergency workers in white hazmat suits digging corpses out of the ground with hand tools and a digger truck. The emergency services said 73 more bodies had been found at the site in the past day, raising the number found over the week to 283.

Israel says it was forced to battle inside hospitals because Hamas fighters operated there, which medical staff and Hamas deny.

Gaza authorities say the bodies recovered so far are from just one of at least three mass graves they have found at the site.

“We expect to find another 200 bodies at the same mass grave in the coming two days before we will begin working at the two other cemeteries,” said Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run government media office.

He accused Israel of carrying out “executions” at the hospital and covering up the crimes by burying bodies with a bulldozer. Israel strongly denies having carried out executions.

Relatives have been coming to take away loved ones for reburial. Family members brought the body of Osama al-Shoubagy, one of those recovered inside the hospital grounds, to a graveyard on Monday to rebury him next to his sister, to whom he had once donated a kidney when she was sick.

“My young daughter asked me to visit the grave of her father. I would tell her that as soon as we bury him, we will visit him. Thank God. The scene is tough, but we might find some relief after burying him,” said his wife Soumaya.

In one hand she held a few yellow flowers, in the other, the hand of their small daughter Hind, who wore a pale yellow Disney “Frozen” tracksuit to say goodbye to her father.

“He loved me, [and used to] buy things for me, and he used to take me out,” the small girl said by the side of the new grave.

Gaza residents reported air strikes in several other areas, including Rafah, where a day earlier doctors had performed a Caesarean section to save a baby from the womb of his mother who was among those killed.

In Nusseirat in central Gaza, officials said an air strike had damaged solar panels the hospital relies on for power. – Reuters