~ Johnathan Spyer. Originally published in The Australian on 13 January, 2024.
‘We’ve been on the mission from the first day. We were mobilised on October 8,” Col. Tal Kuritzky, commander of the Israel Defence Forces’ 5th Infantry Brigade, tells me. “Our task is to make it possible for the residents of the Gaza envelope to return to their homes. We’re creating a safe area along the border to enable their return. And we’ve struck hard at Hamas’s infrastructure.”
We are sitting, a group of journalists and soldiers, in a house in Khirbet Khuzaia, Khan Yunis Governorate, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. It is midday but the house is dark, its electricity long ago cut off. Its prior function seems to have been as a religious centre of some kind. Islamic texts and, improbably, a poster of Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat are strewn around one of the rooms, amid broken glass.