Israel exploring construction of humanitarian compound in northern Gaza after fighting subsides

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The establishment of such a compound would allow some Palestinian civilians to move to northern Gaza once the Israeli military completes its current phase of military operations in northern Gaza, the sources said.

The planning for the compound is in its early stages and it was not yet clear how many people the compound could accommodate or whether it would ultimately come to fruition. But it marked the first indication that Israel is beginning to consider how Palestinian civilians could return to northern Gaza once the current phase of military operations there concludes.

Israel has informed the United States it is exploring the project and a senior Israeli official said Israel would seek assistance from other countries as well. The international humanitarian official also confirmed discussions about the project and said other countries and private entities could be involved.

Israeli military officials have said they believe they are close to defeating Hamas militants in Jabalya and Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood, Hamas’ last remaining strongholds in northern Gaza.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday hinted at the possibility of allowing displaced civilians to return to northern Gaza once Israel achieves its military objectives there.

“In every area where we achieve our mission, we will be able to transition gradually to the next phase and start working on bringing back the local population. This can be achieved maybe sooner in the north rather than in the south,” Gallant said during a news conference alongside US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Nearly 85% of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the war between Israel and Hamas, but many of those displaced from northern Gaza will have no homes to return to – hence the need for the construction of shelters to allow some of the population to return.

By the end of November, about 80% of buildings in northern Gaza had been damaged or destroyed amid relentless Israeli bombardment, according to an analysis by the United Nations Satellite Centre published last week.

The Israeli government is exploring the project amid pressure from the United States to ramp down its military campaign in Gaza and establish more safe zones for Palestinian civilians.

The news that Israel is exploring the construction of shelters for Palestinians in northern Gaza follows visits by Austin and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who both pressed Israeli officials for a timetable on ramping down the fighting and focusing more on special operations and providing humanitarian relief to Palestinian civilians.

Israel has also begun to explore the post-war reconstruction of the Gaza Strip with the United States and Gulf countries, the officials said.

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