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Israel says it has withdrawn its troops from Khan Younis in southern Gaza in order to prepare for operations in Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold, despite US warnings that a big ground offensive on the town would be a mistake.

“Our forces left the area in order to prepare for their future missions, including their mission in Rafah,” Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said after meeting senior officers of the army’s southern command.

An army statement said the minister had been briefed on preparations for the destruction of Hamas’s Rafah Brigade, “an achievement which will finalise the dismantling of Hamas as a military authority in Gaza”.

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