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Israel sends 2 brigades to Gaza as it prepares for Rafah offensive

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military said it is deploying two reserve brigades for missions in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Israel prepared for a ground invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city that Israel says is Hamas’ last major stronghold.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is sheltering in the city, and an offensive there has raised international concern over the potential harm to civilians.

Israel has been gradually reducing the number of troops it has in the territory, but officials have said that was with the aim of regrouping as the army prepares to move into Rafah.

Israel considers an invasion there necessary to meet its war aim of destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

In a statement Wednesday, the Israeli military said the brigades would be involved in “defensive and tactical missions” in Gaza. It said the soldiers have been studying the main lessons from the fighting in Gaza ahead of their deployment.

The military said the brigades had previously been operating along Israel’s northern border, where the terrorist group Hezbollah and Israeli forces have been exchanging fire throughout the war in Gaza.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which terrorists killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the terrorists are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said Wednesday thatat least 34,262 Palestinians have been killed in the war. The Health Ministry doesn’t distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies.

The Israeli military says it has killed some 13,000 terrorists.

In the West Bank, the Israeli military said its forces shot dead a Palestinian woman after she ran toward Israeli soldiers with a knife on Wednesday.

The military said it took place at Okfim junction near the Palestinian city of Hebron. No soldiers were injured.

Palestinian authorities identified the slain woman as 20-year-old Maimuna Harahsheh.

Violence has surged in the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

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