Israel Golani Brigade soldiers leave Gaza after heavy losses in Shujaiya
An "elite" battalion in the Israeli army has left the Gaza Strip this week in a move a TV station suggested was linked to a "reorganisation of ranks" after heavy losses in the hotspot Shujaiya district.
Israel's Channel 13 said the 13th Battalion of the Golani Brigade had transferred control of the Gaza City neighbourhood to another force. The Israeli army announced "operational control" of the area on Thursday, however had made similar announcements that were followed by continued clashes.
Fighters from Hamas's armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, recently ambushed Golani Brigade troops in Shujaiya killing and injuring large numbers of Israeli troops.
Names were published of 10 members of the Golani Brigade who were killed in the ambush, while four others were seriously injured, which included mid-level officers.
After their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israeli media published video clips claiming to show soldiers in the battalion celebrating after leaving the battlefield.
Shujaiya has a reputation as a "deathtrap" for Israeli forces, and the neighbourhood is the site of Tell al-Muntar, a hill which has given the area military significance for centuries.
It has historically been considered the gate to Gaza, due to its commanding views and strategic access to the whole of Gaza City.
Gazan journalist Amjad Yaghi wrote in an article for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, that Shujaiya's nickname is "the Guard", due to its protective position.
Tal Lev-Ram, the military correspondent for Israel's Maariv newspaper, said the Golani Brigade had an unsettled "long and bloody" score with Shujaiya due to the targeting of an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in 2014 which killed seven soldiers and saw the body of Oron Shaul abducted.
Israeli reporter Hanan Greenwood, who entered Shujaiya alongside troops from the Golani Brigade, described the neighbourhood as among the "most fortified targets Golani has faced since the start of the war".
"The neighbourhood is extremely crowded, with a casbah in its centre and a battalion of [fighters] that are viewed as the strongest in Gaza," he said.