Israeli officials said Sunday they are preparing for military operations in the Gaza Strip's southernmost point of Rafah six months into a "long war" that has shattered buildings and lives.

Israel pulled its forces out of the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday in a partial withdrawal half a year into the war sparked by an attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.

But Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said troops left the city of Khan Younis, after months of fighting, "to prepare for future missions, including ... in Rafah".